Winter wheat ahead of schedule despite bumpy ride

The roller coaster ride continues for Ontario’s winter wheat crop.

It’s been a spring full of weather highs and lows but AGRIS Co-op agronomist Dale Cowan says the development of the crop is running about 10 days ahead of schedule in the southwest region of the province.

Cowan told agronomists, researchers, and agribusiness reps gathered for Tuesday’s virtual Ridgetown Agribusiness meeting that “we really need to be careful to not let the calendar stage the wheat.” He noted that staging is “all over the place” but some wheat planted in mid September has accumulated 1,239 growing degree days and theoretically that’s enough for flag leaf emergence to begin.

Overall, agronomists noted that the crop is progressing well across the southwestern region despite huge weather swings throughout March and April. “It seems that every seven or eight days we go to zero degrees and no accumulation of heat so wheat has been up and down like a roller coaster. But it still looks surprisingly strong out there,” said Cowan. He’s heard comments from growers that the wheat is “stalling out” but it’s important to note that in many areas the crop is still ahead of schedule.

Currently, cool nights appear to be keeping disease pressure rather low, but that could change if hotter weather arrives and it stays wet. “We could have an explosion of wheat disease as the canopy is really thick,” noted Cowan.

Agronomist and crop watchers have reported more incidences of septoria, powdery mildew and snow moulds in growing areas north of London, but given the circumstances the crop is in good shape.

For growers looking to optimize yields by reducing the potential for lodging, plant growth regulators (PGR) remain an option. The application window, however, is closing quickly. Both Manipulator and Moddus PGRs are registered for application up to flag leaf.

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