Summer is winding down, but that doesn’t mean your crops have to. In fact, now is the time to start preparing to plant this season’s winter wheat. If you haven’t already included winter wheat in your rotation, here’s why you should:
- Winter wheat can out-yield spring wheat by 20%.
- Adding winter wheat to your rotation can make more efficient use of your equipment.
- Winter wheat has ecological advantages including managing herbicide resistance and diseases such as fusarium.
- It provides soil cover over the winter months, which reduces soil erosion due to the elements.
- Early spring moisture isn’t lost - winter wheat can use it.
- The root system enables winter wheat to withstand drought conditions.
- Winter wheat can survive in low-fertility soil.
For best results, plan ahead. Seeding early - between mid-August and mid-September - will give your crop the best chance for success. This allows the crop to grow 2 or 3 leaves, which will improve the probability of winter survival. Avoid seeding too early, as this will increase your crop’s chance of winter injury or snow mould. There’s no need to wait for moisture to seed, since winter wheat is hardy and can germinate in dry conditions. A rule of thumb to follow regarding seeding is this: seed early, heavy, shallow, slowly, and use treatment. If you can’t see the seeds on the top of the ground, you’ve seeded too deep. Planting too deep cripples your crop’s chances of surviving the winter.
Winter wheat tends to thrive and produce high yields when planted in rotation after canola or mustard. Applying fertilizer such as potash when you plant will give your seeds the start they need. As for weeds, applying weed control before seeding should last into the fall. Don’t overlook the benefits of seed treatments, either - they can dramatically improve your crop’s chances of survival through the winter. Winter wheat is not generally prone to disease or pests due to overwintering, but there are a few things to watch out for in the early stages, such as Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus and Fusarium Head Blight (seeding early can help prevent this).
Now all that’s left is to wait until May to assess your stand. Winter wheat requires patience, but that patience can pay off.