We all hear about the need for farmers to be more "sustainable" and think that it means we need to do something high tech and difficult. However, one simple thing we can do to have a more sustainable farm is to grow winter wheat.
According to Stats Canada, of the 33.8 million MT of wheat produced in Canada in 2022, 92.0% came from spring wheat and only 8% came from winter wheat sown in the fall of 2021. The remaining 8.0% came from winter wheat, which was sown in the fall of 2021. The 2022 Canadian production of winter wheat was 2.7 Million MT, down 16% from the prior year and 43% below the top production year of 2008. Of the 2022 crop that was produced, the majority of the production, 74%, was from Ontario. Info Source here.
I think that there are many reasons that farmers should consider growing more winter wheat and one of those is that is a very sustainable crop choice for us farmers:
1. Resource Efficiency:
Unlike spring-planted crops, winter wheat takes advantage of available moisture during the cooler season. This allows it to get a head start on weeds that could otherwise use up all the available soil moisture.
2. Soil erosion prevention:
Winter wheat's root system serves as an underground powerhouse that contributes to improved soil health. Its extensive root network helps prevent erosion by stabilizing the soil, reducing the risk of nutrient runoff and sedimentation in water bodies.
3. Biodiversity Support:
Winter wheat's growing cycle aligns harmoniously with the habitats of various wildlife species. During its early stages, the crop provides cover and sustenance for birds and insects. This interplay of biodiversity contributes to balanced ecosystems, fostering natural pest control and reducing the need for other interventions. In essence, winter wheat serves as an ally to promote thriving biodiversity within agricultural landscapes. For ducks, in particular, studies have shown that pintail ducks are 24 times more successful nesting in winter wheat than those nesting in spring planted cereal crops.
5. Reduced Energy Inputs:
Compared to some other crops, the cultivation of winter wheat demands lower energy inputs. With winter wheat's early start in the spring, it is a strong competitor to wild oats and other weeds and is more resistant to sawfly pressure. This reduces the amount of equipment operations that may be required to spray chemical or swath a crop that would otherwise not need to be swathed.
In conclusion, winter wheat is a sustainable choice for modern farms and one that is starting to catch attention and get recognition for its sustainability status through programs like Winter Wheat – Habitat-Friendly Winter Wheat (habitatwheat.ca)
For more information on growing winter wheat - get this guide and also see this handy website: Grow Winter Wheat In Western Canada and Double your ROI