Freeze-thaw cycle expected to hurt winter wheat

Canadian Farm NewsUncategorized

The wild weather that has hit the region during the last few weeks, coupled with a late start to the fall planting season, has area farmers concerned about the outlook for this year’s winter wheat crops. 

“If I had to make a guess, I would absolutely say there will be some acres of winter wheat that will have to be taken out this spring” and planted with something else, said Dave McEachren, a member of the Grain Farmers of Ontario in Middlesex County. “I think there’s no doubt about it.” 

McEachren said conditions for winter wheat — which along soybean and corn make the top three cash crops grown in the region — have been bad from the start. 

A wetter-than-normal fall led to farmers planting their crops late in the season, giving the seeds less time to develop roots and reducing their potential for winter survival. 

The issue has been compounded by wide temperature swings that have brought a mix of rain, freezing rain and deep freeze during the last few weeks. 

“A steady winter is always best for winter wheat, one where we are snow-covered and have steady temperatures, but that thawing, deep freeze and thawing again, that cycle can be very detrimental to the crop,” said McEachren, who farms in the Glencoe area. 

The temperature changes can cause frost heaving, where snow melt pools in the ground around plants and when the temperature plummets, the resulting ice pushes the young seedlings out of the ground, exposing the roots to the elements. 

A layer of snow on top of fields serves as insulation for the crops during winter months, whereas water pooled on the partly frozen ground for too long can also affect winter wheat’s growth.