Cereals Seasonal Summary 2023

2022 Planting Conditions

Fall 2022 planting conditions were excellent across the province giving winter wheat, barley, and triticale an ideal start to the growing season. Early planting, along with a warm, open fall was ideal for fall tiller development resulting in high yield potential for many. Overwintering conditions were favourable across the region with excellent winter survival through spring 2023. Approximately 1,180,000 acres of winter wheat were seeded. The proportion of hard red wheat acres was down from 7% to 5% of the acres. Soft white wheat acreage was slightly up from 2022 at 3% and the proportion of soft red wheat acres was slightly up at 92%. Prior to winter, fields had an opportunity to establish a deep root system and tiller, increasing the likelihood of winter survival.

2023 Growing Season Conditions

As winter cereals began to green up, early nitrogen applications began. Spring cereal seeding also began where the conditions were fit. However, as the spring progressed temperatures remained seasonably low, slowing crop growth and development through the initial tillering and jointing stages. Winter barley was particularly short which was likely due to dull, grey days and cool spring temperatures reducing lodging risk. The low temperatures during this period also delayed herbicide, fungicide, and PGR applications for many.

As the season progressed through May and June, temperatures began to warm but much of the region lacked rainfall. These persistent dry conditions, preceded by cool, damp conditions, resulted in nutrients becoming positionally unavailable, particularly on poorly drained soils or fields with rooting depth issues. This resulted in nutrient deficiencies across the province including zinc, manganese, magnesium, boron, sulphur, and nitrogen (Figure 1). Once rainfall began, nutrients once again became available to the plant and many of the visual symptoms disappearing. However, yield loss did occur in instances where nutrient deficiencies were severe.

Figure 1: Winter wheat impacted by frost and manganese deficiency. A foliar spray of manganese sulphate at 7 lb/acre in 53 gal of water with a spreader-sticker can be applied to correct the deficiency.

Figure 1: Winter wheat impacted by frost and manganese deficiency. A foliar spray of manganese sulphate at 7 lb/acre in 53 gal of water with a spreader-sticker can be applied to correct the deficiency.

Despite reports of armyworm larvae and cereal leaf beetle in some fields, insect pressure for much of the province remained low in both winter and spring cereals. Early season disease levels also remained relatively low with some high powdery mildew and Septoria reported, particularly in fields where susceptible varieties were grown. Information on a variety’s level of resistance to powdery mildew and other important diseases such as Septoria can be found through GoCereals.ca. Dry conditions persisted through the flowering period resulting in very low infection levels for fusarium head blight and DON development. Many growers opted to not apply a T3 fungicide application due to the low fusarium risk and lack of leaf disease pressure.

2023 Cereals Harvest

Conditions

Leading up to harvest, conditions were dry in many regions of the province. However, as harvest began, persistent rainfall commenced across the region resulting in a delayed harvest for many with harvest being wrapped up at the end of August. While quality was generally good, with little to no reports of high levels of fusarium head blight (FHB) and deoxynivalenol (DON), some growers did experience challenges with low falling numbers, particularly in soft white varieties. There were also reports of fields turning black from Alternaria, which was particularly prevalent in those fields that did not receive a T3 fungicide with active ingredients effective on Alternaria; fields that experienced dry conditions earlier in the season and were prone to premature seed senescence; and lodged fields. Despite persistent dry conditions through May and most of June, cool nights in June and July extended the grain fill period translating to higher yields than anticipated. 

Spring cereal harvest was also a challenge for many with persistent rainfall events. Much of the spring cereal harvest wrapped up in September. Similar to winter wheat, spring cereal quality was generally good with some reports of fields testing for low levels of fusarium head blight due to the wet conditions through maturity, particularly where a T3 fungicide was not applied.

Yields

Winter wheat yields were once again excellent in 2023 with many reporting average to well above average yields. Spring cereals were down in 2023 due to the dryer conditions from seeding through to pollination followed by persistent rainfall through maturity.  

The following tables summarize the Agricorp reported yields in 2023 and 2022 for each of the winter wheat classes as well as the previous 5-year yield average.

Table 1. 2023 and 2022 Agricorp reported winter wheat yields and the previous 5-year average.

Class2023 Yield (bu/ac)2022 Yield (bu/ac)5-Yr Avg (bu/ac)
Soft Red9910091
Soft White9510092
Hard Red919687
Organic656558
Table 1. 2023 and 2022 Agricorp reported winter wheat yields and the previous 5-year average.

Table 2 below summarizes the Stats Canada spring cereal yields for spring barley, oats, and spring wheat.

Crop2023 Yield (bu/ac)2022 Yield (bu/ac)5-Yr Avg (bu/ac)
Barley64.275.666.2
Oats81.993.183.9
Spring Wheat58.266.656.9
Table 2. 2023 and 2022 Stats Canada reported spring cereal yields and the previous 5-year average.

Fall 2023 Planting Conditions

Winter wheat and barley seeding began in mid-September for those planting after canola, early planted, short season soybeans and some early maturing edible bean fields. In most regions however, winter wheat seeding was delayed to late September or early October due to a delay in soybean maturity. After the second week of October, persistent rainfall made it difficult for some to complete all their winter wheat seeding. In more southern regions of the province seeding went into November. Persistent dry conditions through much of September resulted in some growers waiting for rainfall before planting and in some instances, required irrigation to get the wheat to emerge. Fields with variable emergence or that have not yet emerged should be walked early in the spring to monitor growth. It will also be important for these fields to have timely nitrogen applications next spring to promote tillering.

Despite the challenges with timely seeding this fall, approximately 930,000 acres of winter wheat have been seeded which is down approximately 200,000 acres compared to 2023.