Many growers across the prairies are facing challenging circumstances. Due to wet spring and summer conditions, millions of acres have gone unseeded on the prairies. These acres not only pose a problem this year by reducing income, but could also be a further challenge to seeding in 2012.
However, there is a solution: seeding winter wheat into chemfallow.
Having a crop growing this fall will help reduce the excess moisture and also eliminate the potential challenges of seeding in those wet fields next spring.
"Wet springs that make seeding difficult are ideal for winter wheat," says Mark Akins, winter wheat agrologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada. "Due to its early growth habit and high yield potential, winter wheat is able to make good use of spring and early summer moisture."
Ducks Unlimited Canada encourages growers to keep their tillage equipment out of the fields if they plan on seeding winter wheat this year.
"Chemfallow may not be ideal stubble, but this standing material is essential for trapping snow and protecting the winter wheat plant from cold temperatures throughout the winter," says Akins. "Discing or tilling increases the risk of winter kill when seeding winter wheat. Allowing weeds to grow to a reasonable size prior to spraying can help increase the snow trapping ability of chemfallow."
Best practices to consider when seeding winter wheat into chemfallow:
Nutrient needs for the crop following chemfallow may be different than cropped acres
Soil sampling and professional analysis is also advised for a successful winter wheat crop
Employ different fertility management on unseeded acres than with winter wheat seeded on stubble
If there is a carryover of high soil moisture, it may be wise to only apply non-mobile nutrients and apply nitrogen the following spring to reduce losses
"Extremely wet spring conditions, such as those we experienced earlier this season, are extremely difficult for growers," says Paul Thiel, Vice President of Innovation and Public Affairs with Bayer CropScience Canada. "Investing in crops that help mitigate against events like this is one way Bayer is trying to increase the sustainability of prairie agriculture. Including winter wheat in crop rotations can help growers reduce their exposure to wet conditions and manage some of the risk associated with field operations."
If you would like to know more about growing winter wheat, visit GrowWinterWheat.ca for more information or to find your local DUC winter wheat agrologist. DUC agrologists offer agronomic support for winter wheat growers and industry partners.