GHGMP News Releases

Winter wheat can benefit farmers, production quality and environment

Vermilion, Alta., July 26, 2004

Farmers interested in spreading out the workload, getting more efficient use of equipment and nutrient resources, and potentially producing a higher value crop may want to consider growing winter wheat, says an Alberta soil conservation specialist.

"Winter wheat may also help reduce input costs," says Ron Heller, an agronomist with Alberta Reduced Tillage LINKAGES (RTL), a soil conservation initiative. "Because winter wheat is an effective competitor against weeds, many producers can save $15 per acre in wild oat herbicide."

Heller and RTL colleagues are working on a demonstration project that shows the value of including a crop, such as winter wheat, in a rotation. The project is being partially funded by the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP). For more details on the value of winter wheat in rotation see a feature project report on the Soil Conservation Council of Canada Web site at www.soilcc.ca.

Winter wheat in rotation helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several ways, says Heller. Direct seeding winter wheat into standing stubble reduces the loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere. As well, a vigorously growing winter cereal makes better use of soil nutrients as it uses nitrogen over a longer time period. Not all the nitrogen requirements need to be put down with the seed, which is the practice for spring crops. Therefore there is less risk of nitrogen being lost through leaching or escaping into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide through dentrification. The crop also captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it as carbon in plant tissue.

Although winter wheat has traditionally been considered a crop for the southern Prairies where the winter is milder, more producers are starting to grow the crop outside this zone.

"Direct seeding has made winter wheat a viable crop throughout central Alberta," says Heller. "By seeding directly into crop residue, there's opportunity for the standing stubble to trap snow that can protect the crop over winter. The risk of winterkill is greatly reduced."

The GHGMP supports a broad range of projects across Canada with the goal to promote awareness of agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) administers the delivery of the soil and nutrient management sector component of the program.


For more information, contact:

Ron Heller, Agronomist
Reduced Tillage LINKAGES
Phone: (780) 853-8262

Doug McKell, P. Ag.
Executive Director, SCCC
Phone: (306) 695-4212
Fax: (306) 695-4213
Web site: www.soilcc.ca