By Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Winter cereal crops, including winter wheat, fall rye and winter triticale, are excellent for inclusion in a crop rotation. So says Mark Cutts, crop specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Stettler.
"Winter wheat should be direct-seeded by early September, depending on the area of the province, and is usually harvested several weeks earlier than spring wheat the next year."
Cutts says the general trend is, as you move from southern Alberta to northern, the seeding late becomes earlier. "For example, in Lethbridge you might be looking at a seeding date around September 10 to 20, whereas around Vermilion seeding dates will be sometime in late August to early September."
When it comes to seeding rates, Cutts says producers might want to seed winter wheat a little heavier as there may be losses over the winter. "You'll want to be somewhere around 25-30 plants per square foot at seeding time to protect against losses. Alberta Agriculture's webpage has a seeding rate calculator for cereal crops that can ahelp with this."
With winter wheat, Cutts says the general recommendation is to seed shallow, typically from one half inch to one inch, to ensure good stand establishment once the seed germinates.
"When it comes to field selection, the big key is to have stubble present," says Cutts. "Because the winter wheat germinates in the fall, it basically is going to need snow as an insulator. Canola has been a popular choice, because it tends to leave fairly high stubble that can catch the snow."
Cutts says that nutrients will have to be added to maximize yield. "Fertility is an important part of the winter wheat growing cycle. Some producers will put portions of the required fertilizer down at seeding time and then top up the nitrogen with a broadcast application in the spring. Another approach is to put all the fertilizer down at seeding time. One of the products that has shown great promise with winter wheat is Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN)."
For more information on seeding winter wheat, give the Ag-Info Centre a call at 310-3276.