Strong Yields but Rain Hurting Ontario Winter Wheat Quality

An Ontario winter wheat harvest that is seeing exceptional yields in some cases is also being marred by rain and quality problems.

Lodging and sprouting has been reported in large portions of the province’s southwest, tarnishing bin-busting yields as high as 130 bu/acre.

“The Lake St Clair area of Chatham Kent has been probably hit the worst, but all of the deep southwest has been too wet right at wheat harvest,” Real Agriculture agronomist Peter Johnson said in an email message Wednesday. “Lodging has been a huge (issue) this year, and in that area, severely lodged wheat has 1-inch green shoots already.”

Over the past 30 days, the area from about London south to Windsor has seen 200% or more of normal precipitation. Many other areas have also been wetter than normal.

Lambton, west Elgin and west Middlesex are also all reporting some level of spouts after the weekend, Johnson said. Falling test weights have been a problem as well, he added, noting that every rain event reduces the test weight by about 1 lb/bu. Yield loss from rain is generally not a huge factor, although any lodged wheat has become easy pickings for birds, mice and deer. But quality is still the biggest negative issue.

“In some areas, particularly in Bruce County and through Grey to Simcoe/Dufferin, severely droughted wheat died prematurely and some has sprouted standing on the head, while the other wheat in the field is still quite green. Just another twist.”

Johnson said good quality Ontario Soft White Winter, which only makes up about 3% of the province’s winter wheat crop and is more prone to sprouting than the more widely grown Soft Red Winter, could be in particularly short supply this year. In the Chatham-Kent area, sprouting in the crop has been reported as high as 95%, amid low falling numbers, he said.

On the other hand, some growers in Essex pushed wheat harvest early and beat the rain. “They are the real winners, great quality and well above average yields.”

Yields in droughty areas of the province have been reported as low as 60 bu/acre, but in the best areas, ‘growers are setting records,’ Johnson said. A number of yields of about 130 bu/acre have been reported, but he said he still expects some in the 140s or even the 150s.

At the end of the day, Johnson said he expects there will be enough milling quality wheat in the province to meet demand. Feed wheat is worth as much (or more) than milling wheat, so there should be good demand for poorer quality wheat too, he said, although he added some elevators are nonetheless hitting growers with discounts on lower quality crop.

Source: DePutter Publishing Ltd.

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