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Timing Remains Biggest Challenge for Planting Winter Cereals

24 July 2012

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CANADA - A winter wheat breeder with the University of Manitoba says the timing required in the fall for planting continues to be the biggest reason for fluctuations in the number of acres seeded to winter cereal crops from year to year.

Winter cereal growers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have started harvesting their largest winter wheat crops in years and thanks to a mild winter followed by ideal early season growing conditions, those crops are in excellent condition.

Dr Anita Brûlé-Babel, a winter wheat breeder and geneticist with the University of Manitoba, says due to the difficulty in spring seeding last year there were a lot of unseeded acres last summer that farmers had the opportunity to put into winter wheat and they took that opportunity.

"The main limitation I think and why acreages fluctuate quite a bit continues to be the challenge of getting the crop in in the fall," explains Dr Brûlé-Babel.

"If we happen to have a cool wet summer and we can't get our spring crops off in order to provide that standing stubble to put that winter wheat into.

"I think that's always our biggest challenge with winter wheat, is just being able to get the crop in the ground when you're trying to get your spring crops and other crops off. I think that that continues to be the main limitation.

"Agronomically we've got some very well adapted varieties that do very well. With appropriate management nine out of ten years you will successfully over-winter this crop without any significant winter damage but getting it in the ground in an appropriate time and making sure that that crop is well established before winter is probably one of the biggest challenges we have."

Dr Brûlé-Babel says winter wheat offers several advantages.

She notes the minute temperatures warm up in the spring before the spring crops are planted, winter wheat is already up and growing and able to take advantage of early spring moisture, then as the weather turns hot in the summer the crop is ready to be harvested.

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