GHGMP Project Reports by Region

Winter wheat option demonstrated to Manitoba growers

Higher yields, improved weed control and environmental benefits all part of the package

Three demonstration projects established this growing season will give Manitoba farmers a better idea of how including winter wheat or another winter cereal in rotation can produce both economic and environmental benefits.

The projects, partially funded by the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP), are demonstrating production and disease resistance of several varieties, crop response to different fertilizer treatments, and the potential of winter wheat as a silage crop compared to spring seeded barley.

"More producers are finding winter wheat has several production and economic advantages," says Bryce Wood, regional co-ordinator of 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."

September window

Producers interested in seeding the crop this year have a range of varieties to choose from although the seeding window is quite specific. 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.

September seeding is necessary to enable the crop to successfully over-winter. Seedlings require adequate time in the fall to develop healthy crowns and at least two to three leaves. Temperature and time have a greater influence on winter wheat establishment than soil moisture. Therefore, producers should seed on the optimum date regardless of soil moisture conditions.

Interest in winter wheat and other cereals has grown considerably in Manitoba in recent years. Seeded acres have increased from about 100,000 acres in 2000 to more than 350,000 in 2004. From a production standpoint, the competitive crop can eliminate the need for wild oat herbicide treatment and it can also yield 15 to 20 percent more than spring seeded wheat.

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 help sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Growing plants capture carbon dioxide and store it in plant tissue and in the soil as carbon.

Variety comparison

A demonstration site at the Manitoba Zero Tillage Association Research Farm north of Brandon is comparing the performance of four winter wheat varieties, says Wood. "We'll be evaluating these varieties for yield and leaf diseases," he says. "Some plots will be treated with fungicide while others won't."

The demonstration includes varieties such as CDC Falcon and CDC Raptor, as well as a new variety McClintock, from the University of Manitoba breeding program, which has improved leaf rust resistance.

At Kelburn Farm, James Richardson International's Crop Development Centre south of Winnipeg, various winter wheat fertilizer treatments are being evaluated, says Wood. With fertilizer rates of 100 and 150 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre, the project is looking at differences between liquid and granular fertilizers applied in fall and spring.

The project is also looking at the effectiveness of delayed-release nitrogen fertilizer. This includes coated urea (Agrium's CRU) as well as conventional urea and UAN solutions treated with Agrotain, an additive that delays the release of nitrogen. The potential value is that nitrogen release is synchronized with crop uptake with the potential to reduce nitrogen losses through volatilization as well.

The treatment also has potential to allow higher rates of fertilizer to be applied at seeding with reduced risk of seedling damage, says Wood.

Silage value

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.

Results of the crop performance at all demonstration sites will be known later this fall or early winter, says Wood. The demonstration project will continue in the 2005 growing season.

"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."

Regional reports will be posted as information becomes available. Please check back regularly for updates.