by MATT MCINTOSH
This winter might have worn down nerves and inflated heating costs, but the provincial ministry of agriculture believes winter wheat yields should be better than expected. CLARIFICATION April 10 2014: Johnson says it is too early to predict winter wheat yields at this time, and that it is only possible to predict the amount of winter kill caused by prolonged exposure to ice, sitting water, and snow. END OF CLARIFICATION
“We will have some noticeable winter kill, but overall this year’s harvest should be an average one,” says Peter Johnson, cereal crop specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
“A lot of wheat that looked tough in the fall is looking pretty good now.”
According to Johnson, most of the damage this year was caused by sitting water and ice cover rather than prolonged periods of cold weather. The counties near Lake Ontario’s north shore, the Ottawa Valley, and a few other areas with clay-heavy soils, says Johnson, will likely have the lowest yields since clay soil makes it easier for water to pond in the field.
“Ice for three months is generally bad news for wheat,” he says.
In addition, Johnson believes there is likely a small risk of snow mold in Grey County and Bruce County due to lingering snow cover.
Because there is still snow on the ground in some places, Johnson says the ministry cannot yet fully predict how damaging the winter has been overall. However, he says a fair number of producers have said they should still come out on top, even if the remaining wheat does not survive.
“We generally loose about two or three per cent of the wheat crop [from winter conditions] each year, but it’s very rare to see over 10 per cent winter kill” says Johnson.
“As a whole the province should do just fine.” BF