GHGMP News Releases

Winter wheat seeding window open on the Prairies

Indian Head, Sask., August 25, 2004

Winter wheat and other winter cereal demonstration sites across the Prairies this year will hopefully encourage more producers to include a fall-seeded crop in rotation for a variety of economic and environmental benefits.

Projects in Alberta and Manitoba, all supported by the federal Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP), are showcasing the advantages of a winter cereal in diversifying rotations, reducing the risk of soil erosion, improving nutrient management and weed control, reducing yield risk, improving crop economics and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"More producers are finding winter wheat has several production and economic advantages," says Bryce Wood, regional co-ordinator of the soils section of GHGMP in Manitoba. "As a crop that works well in direct seeding systems, it also plays an important role in nutrient management and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere."

Producers interested in seeding the crop this year have a range of varieties to choose from although the seeding window is quite specific. Optimum seeding dates will vary depending on specific location on the Prairies. In northern parts of Manitoba, the crop should be seeded before September 15, with the last week in August to the first week in September being ideal. In southern areas, the window extends to September 21.

In northwest Alberta, recommended dates run from late August to September 5, while in the central part of the province it runs from September 1 to 10 and in the southern region, September 10 to 20.

Seeding too early may result in lower yields and smaller seed size. Seeding too late may result in lower yields, reduced winter hardiness, increased weed problems, delayed heading, delayed maturity and reduced bushel weight.

Producers should check with provincial crop specialists or a consulting agronomist for recommended seeding dates in their region.

From a production standpoint, the competitive winter wheat crop can eliminate the need for wild oat herbicide treatment and it also can yield 15 to 20 percent more than spring seeded wheats.

From a nutrient management standpoint, the fall seeded cereal will make more efficient use of nitrogen in the soil, says Wood. Under wet conditions surplus nitrogen can be leached from the soil or lost to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, in a process known as denitrification.

As well, a vigorously growing fall crop will also help sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Growing plants capture carbon dioxide and store it in plant tissue and in the soil as carbon.

For more details on Manitoba GHGMP demonstration projects see a feature article on the Soil Conservation Council of Canada Web site at www.soilcc.ca.

At the Manitoba Zero Tillage Association Research Farm north of Brandon, the performance of several winter wheat varieties is being compared, while at Kelburn Farm, James Richardson International's Crop Development Centre south of Winnipeg, various winter wheat fertilizer treatments are being evaluated, and in Western Manitoba, winter wheat and other winter cereals such as fall rye and winter triticale are being evaluated for silage in field scale demonstration plots.

The project, co-ordinated through the WestMan Agricultural Diversification Organization (WADO), will determine yield and quality of winter cereals as silage compared to spring seeded barley. The comparison trials are being staged at the farms of 10 producer co-operators in the region.

"There is growing interest in winter wheat for a wide range of reasons," he adds. "Our goal is to demonstrate it is a valuable crop to include in rotation from production, environmental and conservation aspects."


For more information, contact:

Bryce Wood
MZTRA
Phone: (204) 729-8838

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