By Brandy Harrison
MOOSE CREEK — Mother Nature smiled on Tanya Legault’s wheat acreage — rainclouds passed overhead and cool temperatures were just right for the heat-finicky crop.
“It’s one of those years you try to copy and hope the weather cooperates again next year,” says the Moose Creek crop farmer, who had 75-bushel-per-acre yields and very little fusarium. “We had a dry spell when fusarium would have hit, which probably saved us.”
It was no bin buster for Legault — both spring and winter wheat yields were average. Two applications of nitrogen got protein to where they wanted it, says Legault, who runs Domar Farms with her parents, Alain and Diana.
But roughly one-third of winter wheat loads were downgraded to feed in Eastern Ontario. Early on it looked like spring wheat may have been hit harder by fusarium and may be more variable, says Scott Banks, an OMAFRA crop specialist based in Kemptville. “That’s nothing new to most growers.”
But yields were above average: 80 to as high as 120 bushels on winter wheat and 80 bushels on spring wheat, Banks says. “That’s exceptional for spring wheat.”
Keith Wells harvested a close runner-up to his best yield ever on spring wheat at 75 to 80 bu/ac near Williamstown but with fusarium damage the quality ranged from Grade 2 to feed.
“It was all sprayed for fungicide but there was just too much rainy weather at heading,” he says.
With sparse winterkill and no scorching temperatures in June, Wells also harvested an above-average, high-quality 95-bushel crop of winter wheat. “It’s the best winter wheat crop we’ve ever had.”
There’s a good chance Picton crop farmer Lloyd Crowe also harvested his best-yielding winter wheat crop with some fields over 100 bushels per acre and excellent quality.
“You always sweat through that first few loads, but I haven’t seen one kernel of fusarium-
infected wheat and I thought the way it was raining at heading we were in for it,” says Crowe, who runs Reynolds Farms with his uncle, Larry Reynolds. “Wheat can be cruel.”
St. Isidore crop farmer Marc Bercier knows it. Spring wheat yields and quality were all over the map. In Bercier’s fields, early varieties yielded a below-average 55 to 65 bu/ac and were feed grade with up to four per cent fusarium. But later varieties were right around the farm average at 65 to 70 bu/ac and Bercier expects 80 per cent to make Grade 2.
The strong straw market is a bonus. “Everyone is searching for straw. The straw is profit, free and clear in my pocket,” says Bercier, who’s selling it in the field for between 4 and 6 cents per pound, double the price it commanded five years ago.