Winter Wheat was likely Plan A, but Mother Nature squashed that idea…Now, could Spring Wheat work on your soil?

The effects of Fall 2018 will ripple into the next few crop years, that is for sure. Whether you had DON in corn; soybean harvest in December; any unmarketable or unharvested crop; or unfinished field work – it is quite likely that your soil structure and your revenue structure have been affected. As difficult as this is, we press forward to make plans to create the best 2019 crop we can.

Growers and Advisors will be creating crop plans across the province in coming weeks. Already we have had a noticeable uptick in the number of calls and inquiries where farmers are considering to grow spring wheat in regions that usually grow very little spring wheat. For purpose of discussion I would break the decision to three check points: historical heat units (10yr average, not just 2018), marketing delivery points, and tillage needs.

“2600chu or Less = Traditional spring wheat growing zone”

Go for it! Spring wheat is an effective part of your crop system and cooler weather patterns should give you the stronger chance for favourable conditions during pollination and grain fill. Make plans to seed your crop early and manage for maximum results. Make a solid fertility plan with your advisor to push to create yield and protein. Grain Elevators through this region will have experience with the crop and room for your product at harvest.

“2600chu to 2900 = Decision Zone”

First – where can you sell the grain? Will local elevator take it? If you have storage bins, please make some calls, there will buyers looking for your grain. Second – if you have a buyer, can you plant it early? Early planting is a must to have a good chance of acceptable yield. In most cases this will be accomplished by no-till seeding, possibly frost seeding. Will your field conditions and seeding equipment accomplish this? Can you rent or hire a drill? A nice level field of soybean stubble with good drainage would be a prime candidate to seed to spring wheat. If you need to do tillage before you plant, it might take too long to wait for suitable conditions to plant before end of April.

“2900chu or Greater = Very high chance of disappointment”

In this region, the growing season is too hot in most years to obtain a successful yield. Also, in these areas the grain receiving options are usually very restricted. If you choose to grow it, be prepared for a high chance of a low yield. The warmer geographies create hot and stressful conditions during pollination and grain fill – and yield is reduced. The grain marketing will also involve more freight to find receiving points. If you have a severe need to have cereal in these acres, like straw requirement, rotation, or plans for tile draining , you can attempt to grow spring wheat. But, if you do grow spring wheat, understand that the chance of a satisfying yield is 50/50 at best. Frost Seeding should be a serious consideration to get that crop started ASAP.

We had reports of spring wheat yields that were all over the map for 2018. Even in the traditional spring wheat regions, there were reports of crops with 25bu/ac, and crops over 100bu/ac. In general, most quality reports were quite positive. The disappointed reports closer to 25bu/ac generally fell into areas the experienced extreme drought though May-July, no crop can grow well without water. The 100bu/ac reports came from satisfied growers with a solid management plan that received a couple of timely rain events.

2019 is shaping up to provide some enticing values from grain buyers, as end users continue to have an appetite for Ontario Hard Red Wheat. Call your grain buyers for program info. Straw markets have also already shown signs of shortage. If your soil condition will allow early planting, spring wheat could be a very successful crop option.

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