Prairie winter wheat harvest to start early

The development of winter wheat crops in Western Canada is as much as two to three weeks ahead of schedule and could be harvested in Manitoba as early as next week.

Suitable growing conditions and diligent spraying efforts have supported crop development, according to two wheat experts.

Western Canada’s winter wheat crop conditions are looking "pretty good," as they go through the filling and ripening stages, said Bruce Burnett, director of weather and market analysis for the Canadian Wheat Board in Winnipeg.

"We’ve had a dry finish to the filling stage in Manitoba," he said. "But for the most part, the winter wheat has had adequate moisture for the final growth stages."

The drier parts of Saskatchewan are looking at a harvest about a week to two weeks later, which is more in line with the average timing.

However, the areas hit by localized flooding will need to dry out before harvest can commence, said Jake Davidson, executive director of Winter Cereals Canada.

There have been a few concerns about fusarium head blight threatening some of the winter wheat because of a rainy flowering period on the Prairies, Burnett said.

However, he added, farmers have been using more fungicide this year to counteract the blight, reducing disease pressure on winter wheat.

"We flowered a bit early, so most producers are pretty happy," Davidson said. "The farmers that are really trying to get a quality product are always out there spraying and trying to control disease, even during good growing years."

"In most cases, farmers are just waiting for the crops to mature here and waiting to get ready to pull the combines in and start harvesting next week," Burnett said.

— Ryan Kessler writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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