Demonstration and Development (1994-1995)

Authors:

D.B. Fowler, University of Saskatchewan
L.R. Moats, Ducks Unlimited Canada

INTRODUCTION

The "Conserve and Win" winter wheat demonstration and development program was initiated by Ducks Unlimited Canada and the University of Saskatchewan in 1991. The objectives of the program were to: 1) provide inexperienced growers with the opportunity to acquaint themselves with proven winter wheat production systems, 2) increase interaction among experienced growers so that they could strengthen their management practices, and 3) develop management packages and demonstrate production systems that would allow Saskatchewan farmers to realize the full production and conservation potential of winter wheat in an integrated cropping system. The program was based on the producer club concept where participants were given maximum opportunity to exchange information. The "Conserve and Win" program also provided an excellent opportunity for researchers and extension specialists to find out what was happening with winter wheat at the field level. This report is a summary of the data collected on participants' fields during the fourth and final year of stage one of the "Conserve and Win" program.

Stage one of the "Conserve and Win" program was financed by Ducks Unlimited Canada. Financial assistance or a zero-till drill was provided to first-time growers to ensure that they had access to suitable direct-seeding equipment. This assistance was made available with the condition that recommended agronomic practices for winter wheat production would be followed throughout the production year. Experienced winter wheat growers were also encouraged to join the program and each year the top winter wheat managers were recognized with awards. A "Winter Wheat Challenge", which was open to all producers in the target area, was introduced during year two of the program to encourage greater participation by experienced growers. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Ducks Unlimited Canada provided awards of significant value for the top winter wheat managers in the winter wheat challenge.

First time winter wheat growers were provided with advice on optimum seeding practices in the field at the time of seeding. All fields that farmers had entered in the "Conserve and Win" program were assessed in the fall, late spring, and immediately before harvest of each production year by a field technician.

Farmer cooperators were sent a copy of the assessment of their field after each survey. Each farmer cooperator also received a general summary of all the survey data collected during each survey period. The farmer cooperators provided additional information on their fields and a grain sample from each field was sent to the Canadian Grain Commission Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg where kernel size, protein concentration, and official grades were determined.

 

Number of Fields Surveyed and Survey Area
Crop Insurance Soil Class Ratings
Previous Crop
Stubble Height and Density
Residue (Trash) Management
Seeding Date
Cultivar
Seeding Equipment
Seeding Rate and Plant Counts
True Seeding Depth
Fall Plant Growth and Development
Phosphate Fertilization
Fall Nitrogen Fertilization
Fall Applied Herbicides
Spring Applied Herbicides
Spring Nitrogen Fertilization
Total Nitrogen Fertilization
Weeds
Diseases and Insects
Crop Height and Lodging
Maturity and Second Growth
Harvest Date, Grain Drying, and Swathing
Grain and Protein Concentration
Grain Yield
Recommendations

 

 

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

(continued II)

 



1. Number of Fields Surveyed and Survey Area

One hundred and nineteen (119) winter wheat fields that had been seeded by farmers were monitored in the fall of 1994. Four Crop Development Centre research sites were also monitored to provide baseline production reference points. The survey area extended from Cut Knife and Kindersley in the west, Lafleche and Lake Alma in the south, Carnduff and Kamsack in the east, and Star City and Shellbrook in the north. The winter of 1994-95 was very mild and winter wheat survived the winter in excellent condition, even on fields with poor snow trapping capabilities. Early spring moisture was good in most areas. Growing season moisture was good in the eastern section of the survey area. June was especially dry in the west and a hot, windy period in early June severely limited the yield potential of winter cereals. An abnormally wet August interfered with harvest in many areas.
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2. Crop Insurance Soil Class Ratings

 

Soil Class
B C D E F G H J K L M O P
Percent of Fields 2 2 4 3 3 26 16 18 9 6 6 3 2

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3. Previous Crop

Winter wheat was seeded into the stubble of a total of 13 different crops, However, 56 percent of the winter wheat was seeded into canola stubble.

 

Chemical Fallow - 5%
Winter Wheat - 1%
Sweet Clover - 4%
Mustard - 3%
Fall Rye - 1%
Canola - 56%
Spring Wheat - 12%
Lentils - 1%
Flax - 1%
Barley - 11%
Durum - 2%
Canary Seed - 1%
Oat - 2%

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4. Stubble Height, Density, and Snow-Trapping Potential

The snow trapping potential of standing stubble is determined by the height and density of the stubble of the previous crop. An index of snow trapping potential (STP = stubble height (cm) x stems per m2 / 100) was calculated to provide an objective estimate of the capability of the stubble fields to trap snow. Winter wheat is considered to have a high risk of winterkill when the STP falls below 20.

Thirty-eight percent of the fields surveyed had a snow-trapping potential index that was less than 20. These winter wheat crops would be considered in the high risk category if exposed to a high stress winter. The stubble in 91 percent of these high risk fields was provided by either oilseed, pulse crop, or chemical fallow.

 



Previous Crop
Chemical Fallow
Canola
Barley
Winter Wheat
Spring Wheat
Durum Wheat
Sweet Clover
Lentils
Canary Seed
Mustard
Flax
Oat
Fall Rye
Average
Stubble Height
(cm)
21
25
18
28
22
18
19
8.3
17
25
38
23
20
Average
Stubble Density
stems per m2
79
97
232
285
221
242
133
59
228
86
97
108
129
Average
Snow Trap Index
STP
16.6
24.3
41.8
79.8
48.6
43.6
25.3
5.0
38.8
21.5
37.0
24.8
25.8

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5. Residue (Trash) Management

No major trash problems were reported.
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6. Seeding Date

Average - September 7th. Range - August 24th to September 29th.

Eighty-seven percent of the winter wheat was seeded during the recommended period in the fall of 1995.

The remaining 13 percent of the winter wheat was seeded later than the recommended date.


7. Cultivar

Twenty-six percent of the fields were seeded to Norstar and 74 percent of the fields were seeded to CDC Kestrel.

Most of the fields in the drier western part of the survey area were seeded to CDC Kestrel. CDC Kestrel was also the most popular cultivar in the higher moisture eastern part of the survey area. However, 24 fields in the eastern region were seeded to Norstar providing the opportunity for comparisons between Norstar and CDC Kestrel.

 

Average inputs and performance of Norstar and CDC Kestrel in the higher moisture eastern section of Saskatchewan in 1994-95.
Farmers' Fields Research Plots
Norstar CDC Kestrel Norstar CDC Kestrel
Phosphate fertilizer (lb/acre) 22 20 30 30
Nitrogen fertilizer (lb/acre) 49 53 160 160
Height (inches) 37 30 46 38
Harvest date Aug. 25 Aug. 28 Aug. 23 Aug. 23
Kernels per spike 31 31 N/A N/A
1000 kernel weight (g) 33 33 N/A N/A
Spikes per m2 272 283 N/A N/A
Grain yield (bu/acre) 40.6 42.2 66.4 71.3
Protein (%) 9.0 9.3 12.4 12.2
Protein yield (lb/acre) 219 235 494 522
Grade (%) - #1 5 7 0 0
#2 19 30 100 100
Feed 76 63 0 0

CDC Kestrel had a 4% yield advantage over Norstar in the farmers' fields and a 7% yield advantage over Norstar in the University of Saskatchewan research trials in the eastern half of Saskatchewan in 1995. The protein concentrations of Norstar and CDC Kestrel were similar while CDC Kestrel had a grade advantage. The shorter, stronger straw of CDC Kestrel was evident in both the research plots and the farmers' fields.
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8. Seeding Equipment

Narrow hoe-type openers were used to seed 82 percent of the winter wheat fields. Eleven percent of these fields had nitrogen fertilizer side-banded during the seeding operation. Ten percent of the winter wheat fields were seeded with disc drills. The remaining eight percent of the fields were seeded using hoe-type openers with sweeps that were greater than four inches wide.

Seed placement by several of the drills was quite variable.
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9. Seeding Rate and Plant Counts

Seeding rate ranged from 56 to 125 lbs per acre with a mean of 88 lbs per acre. Plant counts (plants per m2) made in the late fall ranged from 54 to 373 with an average of 204. Winter wheat fields with less than 200 plants per m2 usually have a lower grain yield potential than those with higher plant counts.

The number of winter wheat plants per m2 was not related to seeding rate indicating that there were difficulties in drill adjustment and seed placement in many fields.
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10. True Seeding Depth

True seeding depth (plant emergence distance) was estimated in the late fall by measuring the distance from the seed to the area on the winter wheat plant where the green chlorophyll was first noticeable.

True seeding depth ranged from 1.1 to 5.7 cm with an average of 2.7 cm (1.1 inches).

The winter wheat was seeded less than 2.54 cm (one inch) deep in 64 percent of the fields. It was seeded deeper than 5.08 cm (2 inches) in 6 percent of the fields surveyed.
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11. Fall Plant Growth and Development

Seventy-six percent of the fields surveyed had plants that entered the winter with three or more leaves. Crowns usually start to develop and tillers are produced once the plant has three fully developed leaves.

The average plant had 3.7 leaves when it went into the winter. However, plant size varied from those which were just emerging in one field to plants with seven leaves in a chemical fallow field that was seeded on August 25th.
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12. Phosphate Fertilization

Seedplaced phosphorous fertilizer was applied to 90 percent of the fields surveyed. Average rate of application was 22.8 lb P2O5 per acre with a range from 6.8 to 51 lb P2O5 per acre. Eighty-two percent of the fields received at least 15 lbs P2O5 at the time of seeding.
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13. Fall Nitrogen Fertilization

Thirty-five percent of the winter wheat fields surveyed had supplementary nitrogen fertilizer applied in the fall. Nitrogen fertilizer was side-banded at an average rate of 49 lb N per acre in 11 percent of the fields at the time of seeding. Supplemental nitrogen fertilizer was seed-placed at a rate of 42 lb N per acre in 12 percent of the fields. Liquid N or urea was applied after seeding to 13 percent of the fields at a rate of 57 lb N per acre.
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14. Fall Applied Herbicides

Roundup or Rustler were applied to 48 percent of the fields prior to seeding. Banvel (4%), MCPA (7%), Buctril M (11%), or 2,4-D (78%) were applied to 24 percent of the fields for broadleaf weed control in the late fall.
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15. Spring Applied Herbicides

Herbicides were applied to 79 percent of the fields inspected in the spring of 1995. Application dates ranged from May 1 to June 8 with an Average of May 19.

 

Herbicide Applied
2,4-D
Buctril-M
MCPA
Dyvel or Dyvel DS
Target
Refine Extra
Estaprop
2,4-D + Banvel
Achieve
2,4-D (M6), MCPA (J5)
Buctril-M + Permax
MCPA + Banvel
2,4-D + Achieve
2,4-D + Refine Extra
% of Fields
59
12
6
6
4
3
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
1


20. Crop Height and Lodging

Height of the cultivar Norstar ranged from 24 to 47 inches with an average of 36 inches. The height of CDC Kestrel ranged from 16 to 36 inches with an average of 28 inches.

Significant lodging was observed in 50 percent of the fields that were seeded to Norstar. Norstar fields that lodged had an average height of 42 inches. Minor crop lodging was reported in 5 percent of the fields that were seeded to CDC Kestrel.
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21. Maturity and Second Growth

Maturity (ready to swath) of the average winter wheat crop ranged from July 22 in the drier western section to August 24 in the cooler, wetter eastern part of the survey area.

Second growth delayed the maturity of 10 percent of the fields surveyed. Second growth was mainly associated with late nitrogen fertilizer applications. Half of the fields with more than 10 percent second growth had nitrogen applied with a spoke wheel applicator after May 26.
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22. Harvest Date, Grain Drying, and Swathing

The average harvest date was August 26 (range July 28 to September 27) in 1995. Wet weather delayed the harvest of 57 percent of the winter wheat fields surveyed in the fall of 1995. The average length of harvest delay due to wet weather was 10 days (range 1 to 30 days).

Winter wheat from 34 percent of the fields was artificially dried in the fall of 1995. Grain was dried using natural air (aeration drying) 83 percent and heated air 17 percent of the time. Winter wheat that was dried using natural air had an average harvest moisture of 16.7 percent (range 15.0 to 19.0 percent). The average harvest moisture of winter wheat that was dried using heated air was 18.3 percent (range 17.8 to 19.0 percent).

Fifty-four percent of the winter wheat was straight (direct) cut in the fall of 1995.
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23. Grade and Protein Concentration

Cool, wet weather delayed the 1995 harvest and many fields that started out as Nos. 1 and 2 C.W. red winter wheat deteriorated to feed wheat by the time they were harvested. The average price received for off-board feed wheat was $4.43 (range $4.00 to $4.78) per bushel between harvest and Christmas of 1995.

Compared to the higher rainfall eastern section of the survey area, winter wheat produced in the drier western region was lower yielding and had a higher protein concentration and a better grade distribution. In the eastern section of the survey area, where more favorable growing season weather resulted in higher grain yields, the average winter wheat protein concentration was 9.2 percent. This is considerably lower than the 12 percent protein concentration target of the Canadian Wheat Board.

No. 1 C.W. red winter wheat had an average protein concentration that was more than one percent higher than the No. 2 C.W. and Feed wheat grades. However, only 13 percent of the winter wheat samples would have been eligible for the approximate 10 cent per bushel protein premium offered for winter wheat with a protein concentration of 11.5 percent or more.

Quality of the 1994-95 Winter Wheat Crop in Saskatchewan.
GRADE
1
2
3
a) Drier Western Region
Grade distribution (%)
Average harvest date (August)
1000 kernel weight (g)
Yield (bu/acre)
Protein (%) Minimum
Protein (%) Maximum
Protein (%) Average

37
18
32
26
11.0
12.9
11.8

26
26
29
26
9.0
12.9
10.4

37
21
32
32
9.2
11.5
9.9

 


24. Grain Yield

Variable growing season rainfall (May, June, and July) was the main factor responsible for differences in winter wheat grain yield in 1995. A dry June with hot, windy periods during the stem elongation growth stage caused high tiller mortality and severely limited yield potential of winter cereals in the drier western part of the survey region. Grain yields in this area ranged from 15 to 40 bu/acre with an average of 28 bu/acre. Growing season moisture was much better in the eastern section of the survey area where yields ranged from 10 to 72 bu/acre with an average of 42 bu/acre.

Grain protein concentration of less than 11 percent usually indicates that higher, more profitable winter wheat yields could have been achieved if higher nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates had been used. An average grain protein concentration of 11.3 percent indicates that level of available nitrogen was not a critical factor limiting winter wheat yield on the lowest yielding 50 percent of the fields in the drier western region. If anything, an average grain protein concentration of 10.1 percent suggests that the highest yielding fields in this region could have benefitted from increased levels of N fertilizer. However, the absence of a large yield increase with high N fertilizer rates in the Crop Development Centre research plots in this area suggests that the average N fertilizer rates used by farmers were close to those required for maximum grain yield, i.e., N fertilizer rates greater than 50 lb/acre increased grain protein concentration but had little effect on grain yield.

Average grain protein concentration was only 9.2 percent in the higher moisture eastern region indicating that most winter wheat fields had a large N deficiency. The magnitude of the potential grain yield loss due to inadequate N fertilization was emphasized by the fact that only four percent of the fields in this area produced winter wheat with a grain protein concentration greater than 11 percent. This indicates that higher, more profitable winter wheat yields could have been achieved on nearly all the fields surveyed in the eastern region if higher rates of N fertilizer had been used. Results from this survey also indicated that higher grain yield N responses were obtained from spring-applied compared to fall-applied N fertilizer.

Survey results indicated that increased phosphate fertilizer rates would have produced profitable yield responses on fields that received less than 15 lb/acre phosphate fertilizer, especially in the higher moisture eastern region.

High tiller mortality, due to early season drought and heat stress, resulted in all three yield components (kernels per spike, kernel weight, and spikes per m2) being responsible for differences in grain yield in the western section of the survey area. In contrast, number of head producing tillers (spikes per m2) was the main yield component responsible for the differences observed in grain yield in the higher moisture eastern region.

Average Performance of the 1994-95 Winter Wheat Crop in Saskatchewan.
a) Drier Western Region
Yield Distribution
Lowest
50 percent
Highest
50 percent
Research
Plots
Grain yield (bu/acre)
Phosphate fertilizer (lb/acre)
Nitrogen fertilizer (lb/acre)
- fall applied
- spring applied
- total
Kernels per spike
1000 kernel weight (g)
Spikes per m2
Grain protein (%)
Grain protein yield (lb/acre)
22
22

10
28
38
30
28
179
11.3
149
35
22

20
30
50
35
33
207
10.1
212
32
30

0
140
140
N/A
N/A
N/A
14.9
286
b) Higher Moisture Eastern Region
Yield Distribution
Q1z Q2 Q3 Q4 Research Plots
Grain yield (bu/acre)
Phosphate fertilizer (lb/acre)
Nitrogen fertilizer (lb/acre)
- fall applied
- spring applied
- total
Kernels per spike
1000 kernel weight (g)
Spikes per m2
Grain protein (%)
Grain protein yield (lb/acre)
28
14

20
17
37
32
33
182
9.4
158
38
20

35
19
54
31
32
262
9.4
214
48
25

34
28
62
31
34
312
9.0
259
57
23

16
40
56
31
33
382
9.1
311
71
30

0
160
160
N/A
N/A
N/A
12.2
522
z Q1 - Average performance of the lowest yielding 25 percent of the winter wheat fields in the program.
Q4 - Average performance of the highest yielding 25 percent of the winter wheat fields in the program.

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25. Recommendations

Statistics Canada's November 1995 crop production estimates placed the average yield of winter wheat in Saskatchewan at 32 bu/acre. The average winter wheat yield in the "Conserve and Win" project was 28 bu/acre in the dry western region and 42 bu/acre in the higher moisture eastern region. The overall average winter wheat yield in this project was 38 bu/acre indicating that the Statistics Canada winter wheat yield estimates were either heavily biased toward the major drought areas or the majority of winter wheat growers employed a level of management that was considerably less than the optimum.

Farmers in this project who most closely followed recommended production practices (the top 1/3 of the survey group) realized an average yield of 30 bu/acre in the dry western region and 49 bu/acre in the higher moisture eastern region. A protein concentration of 9.0 percent indicated that even higher grain yields could have been achieved through better nitrogen fertilizer management under the favorable growing season moisture conditions experienced in the eastern region. Nitrogen fertilization for target CDC Kestrel yields of 70 bu/acre plus were not unrealistic for the higher moisture areas of Saskatchewan in 1995.

Farmers who followed recommended production practices most closely seeded 4 times as many acres to winter wheat in the fall of 1995 indicating that they had a more positive experience with winter wheat in 1994-95 than those who tended to stray from the recommendations outlined in the Winter Wheat Production Manual.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Financial support from Ducks Unlimited Canada is gratefully acknowledged. The assistance of K. LePoudre, L. Moats, and S.P. Fowler in coordinating the activities of this project and B.T. Fowler, L. Koturbash, T. Plews, T. Mathieson, L. Gabruck, L. McLean, D. O'Bertos, and D. Egert in conducting the field surveys are also gratefully acknowledged. This program would not have been possible without the support of farmer-cooperators. The willingness of farmer-cooperators to share information on their winter wheat failures and successes is acknowledged with gratitude.