Wheat School: A plan for winter wheat success


Due to a poor harvest in 2019, producers on the Prairies faced a lot of challenges. Then, with an extended spring in some parts for 2020, many acres went left unseeded. But there’s still hope to get a crop in, such as winter wheat, it will just take a bit of planning.

“The first step if you want to take to an option like winter wheat, is to make sure that you have your planning in place,” says Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy research extension specialist with the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions. “(Winter wheat) doesn’t align typically with the normal schedule of seeding and harvest, so making sure you have a good plan in place is going to help make sure that seed gets in the ground properly.”

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The first thing to consider is seeding winter wheat into a standing stubble. This will help catch snow and insulate the crop. The second thing to consider is seeding rate — going high, at about 400 seeds per metre square — will help ensure against loss due to poor winter conditions and survivability. A higher seeding rate often leads to yield stability, too.

A dual seed treatment with fungicide and insecticide is a must as it will help the seed germinate safely and the plant get out of the ground just that little bit quicker. Seeding date is another point to consider, and that will depend on where you are. For example in southern Alberta, winter wheat should be seeded prior to September 20, says Boychyn.

There are downsides of planting too late, but there are drawbacks to planting too early as well. If you get too much growth you can have increased risk of winterkill, Boychyn says.

How you manage the crop in the fall will affect how it comes out of dormancy in the spring. A split nitrogen application can really make a difference, as can an enhanced efficiency fertilizer, if conditions are right, he says.

There’s plenty of information on winter wheat varieties in the seed guides, and in the Wheat School, so make sure you do your research and plan accordingly.

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