Preparing for Next Year's Winter Wheat Crop

Key To Success
Ask any winter wheat grower and they will tell you that one of the biggest keys to successful winter wheat production is having suitable stubble available in the ideal planting window. Planning your winter wheat crop should start when spring crop decisions are being made, as the spring crop and its seeding date will have a great influence on type and availability of stubble for fall planting.

To optimize winter survival, stubble needs to hold 4 inches or more of snow. This blanket of snow will help protect the seeded winter wheat crop by preventing soil temperatures from dropping to lethal temperatures. Canola is often the most popular stubble choice in Manitoba because it is often seeded early to ensure highest yield but this also facilitates earlier harvest and stubble availability. Polish canola, barley or oats can be seeded later and still provide stubble due to earlier maturity of some varieties. Most often these stubbles are not preferred but used as a second choice if needed. Note: Farmers need to be aware of MASC’s Insurance coverage on winter wheat in relationship to seeding into “eligible stubble”. Contact your local MASC agent for full details. 

When planning which fields you are planting your “stubble” in, determine where your winter wheat fits into the overall cropping sequence of your farm. Ensure that the fields selected minimize risks from diseases, weeds (including quackgrass, perennial thistles, dandelions and volunteer cereals), insects, etc., while at the same time providing maximum protection from soil erosion, moisture loss, winter damage, etc. Also, avoid fields with downy or Japanese brome as there are no in-crop herbicide control options in winter wheat.

Seeding Date & Fusarium Head Blight Management
Seeding should also be at the optimum time, ideally between August 25 and September 15. The goal is to have plants with a well-developed crown and about 3 leaves going into the winter.
 
Downgrading due to Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) infection can be an issue in winter wheat production, as was seen in 2010. There are a few management tips to manage this disease. In spring wheat, variety selection is one tool in the toolbox farmers have in managing fusarium head blight (FHB). Since winter wheat varieties have poor genetic tolerance to FHB, effectively removing variety selection as a management option, early flowering is the avoidance strategy used to try and escape the prime fusarium head blight infection period. Seeding date and accumulated growth in the fall has a large influence on the crop’s ability for early flowering. However, this does mean targeting a seeding date near Labour Day Weekend in September so plan accordingly.
 
Variety Selection
Now is also the time to start thinking about variety choice. There are many traits to consider when selecting a winter wheat variety. Although yield is generally the first factor considered in selecting a variety, farmers should also compare varieties for standability, disease resistance and other agronomic factors. Farmers should choose a variety (or varieties) based on planned end-use, i.e. milling, feed grain and ethanol production.

To assist farmers with variety decisions this fall, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Develompent (MAFRD) and MCVET (Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Team) will be publishing in late August/early September the most recent variety descriptions and performance data collected for winter wheat. And of course SEED MANITOBA is an excellent starting place for evaluating the current and new varieties coming to the marketplace. It is available online at www.seedmb.ca.
 
Evaluating new varieties, particularly varieties that belong to the Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) class if aiming for the milling market, will become more important going into the future. Manitoba farmers need to be aware as of August 1, 2013, CDC Kestrel, CDC Clair, CDC Harrier and CDC Raptor will be moved from the CWRW class to the Canada Western General Purpose (CWGP) class. CDC Falcon will be moved from the CWRW class to the CWGP class a year later on August 1, 2014.
 
Final Notes
Successful winter wheat production requires good management skills. Planning for suitable stubble and having it available in the optimum planting time frame is key in successful winter wheat production. Of course having a Plan B is also important as you never know what the growing season will bring.