Ontario 2021 wheat yields the highest in years

Ideal rainfall led to high wheat yields but it also compromised quality

Wheat harvest proceeded efficiently in 2021, with generally good harvest conditions.

The 2021 winter wheat harvest has been a bin-buster. Timely rains, adequate heat and ideal planting conditions provided excellent yields. 

“In areas with adequate moisture, and early planted wheat, we are seeing yields well above 100 bushels to the acre, with some reports showing 120 to 140 bushels to the acre average,” says Joanna Follings, cereals specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. 

Why it matters: 2021’s high wheat yields will increase the Ontario wheat yield average and help to better the return on investment for growers. 

Mark Burnham, a producer in Cobourg, says 2021 may be a record wheat crop for his farm with yields averaging 100 to 105 bushels per acre, about 10 to 15 bushels more than average. 

“Like most of the province we were dry in the early spring, but as soon as the wheat started flowering, we got ample rain, good temperatures, and the wheat loved it,” says Burnham. 

Areas with less than adequate moisture saw plants unable to retain their tillers. 

“If you run into moisture problems those plants start to drop those tillers. This is where we saw an impact on yield,” says Follings.

Those areas included Perth, Wellington, Waterloo and Brant counties, along with Central and Eastern Ontario. However, they still saw yields of 70 to 90 bushels per acre, well within the provincial average. 

Follings says she suspects the provincial wheat average will increase this year compared to the 2020 and 2019 averages of 83 and 76.8 bushels, respectively. 

Some quality issues have been reported; specifically sprouting and poor falling numbers. Even areas without sprouting issues had lower falling numbers, which Follings says is likely due to temperature fluctuations. 

“When you have these large temperature fluctuations you can actually induce what is called late alpha amylase production, or late returning alpha amylase production, and it can cause low falling numbers.” 

Burnham finished combining the last 20 acres of his 2021 wheat crop on Aug. 6 and said his test weight was about 60 pounds per bushel with fair quality. 

“Talking about falling numbers, I’ve only had one test done and it came back above average threshold for milling quality but that was one of our earlier loads,” he said. “Falling numbers are pretty variable. I can’t say for certain whether we maintained that quality or if it’s going to change.” 

The quality has created challenges for producers with milling wheat but the two major quality challenges experienced this year – sprouting and blackpoint – pose no risk to the livestock sector, where most of Ontario’s wheat is used.

“Although they might not meet milling quality, we still have an opportunity to market this wheat and feed it. With the corn commodity prices in general being strong, wheat is a good competitor with corn livestock rations,” says Follings. 

She says farmers who save their wheat seed to replant should do a germination and vigour test. 

“Historically, if you’ve got less than five per cent sprout, generally, it’s reliable, but it’s very difficult to predict whether or not that seed is reliable once you get to those higher levels of sprout. As well, falling numbers being so low, this can also indicate some issues with quality.”

About the author

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Jennifer Glenney

Jennifer is a farm reporter who lives in Cayuga, Ontario.

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