Western Canadian winter wheat delivers a variety of on-farm agronomic advantages such as improved soil health, reduced tillage, higher crop productivity, and more efficient use of crop inputs.
Winter wheat provides marketing flexibility to sell to the milling, feed or ethanol markets. By communicating the benefits of winter wheat to consumers, we can improve the viability of this grain as an option in crop rotations over the long-term, giving you the ability to diversify your crop.
As a result of its clear sustainable benefits, studies have shown that when given the choice between two similar wheat products, 1 in 3 Canadian consumers would choose the product with the ecolabel.
I encourage farmers from all around the Prairies to take a new look at the benefits of growing winter wheat. Since I started farming in the early ‘80s, winter wheat has continued to have a place in my crop rotation.
Due largely to the many periods of drought in our area, I grow winter wheat as it provides a way to use moisture from the winter to sustain my crop. Now, decades later, I have a new perspective on the many other benefits of incorporating Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) into our crop production.
Winter wheat is a success story on my farm thanks to the ever-evolving developments in research and variety breeding throughout the years.
The new winter wheat varieties available should encourage renewed consideration from both young farmers and the older generations. New winter wheat varieties that have come out of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre are incredibly well-resistant to disease, with options specifically developed for high yielding production on dry or irrigated zones throughout the Prairies. Whether grown on dryland or irrigated acres, winter wheat is a successful crop that continually performs well on both land types on my farm.
Gary Stanford is a dryland and irrigation farmer near Magrath in southern Alberta.
Gary farms 3,000 acres along with his two sons and has been proudly involved with the Alberta Winter Wheat Producer’s Commission, the Alberta Wheat Commission, and other industry initiatives throughout his farming career.
The sustainability benefits are another aspect of growing winter wheat that farmers should not lose sight of.
Winter wheat has improved the soil quality on my farm by preventing soil erosion from high winds, capturing moisture, and by increasing the organic matter for future rotations. Wildlife also benefit as our winter wheat fields provide disruption-free nesting habitats for many waterfowl species, such as the northern pintail. Protecting ecosystems and encouraging sustainable farming practices is beneficial for all in our industry.
Now is a great time to grow winter wheat.
As many key players in the Canadian wheat industry continue working to improve opportunities for the development, production and sale of winter wheat, I encourage farmers to speak with their crop commissions and agronomists as the first step in growing winter wheat on their farms.