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Winter cereal options

By Ken Panchuk, PAg, Provincial Specialist Soils, Regina and Mitchell Japp, PAg, Provincial Specialist, Cereal Crops, Regina

Field of winter wheat
Field of winter wheat.

Seeding of winter cereals can begin soon, ideally into standing stubble of an oilseed crop. Caution is needed when seeding winter wheat into cereal stubble with green volunteers or next to a cereal crop that is still green due to the risk of transmitting wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV).

Table 1: Optimum seeding dates for winter wheat.

Optimum seeding date


August 27

Meadow Lake, Prince Albert, Nipawin

August 30

North Battleford, Saskatoon, Wynyard, Yorkton

September 3

Kindersley, Swift Current

September 6

Maple Creek, Estevan

Tips for successful winter cereal establishment include:

  • Aim to seed within 10 days of the optimum seeding date. Each area is different (Table 1).
  • WSMV can be managed culturally by maintaining a 10-day gap in the green cereals so the virus is not transmitted. WSMV is a good reason to delay planting.
  • Use a seed treatment to give the winter cereal an extra edge for a healthy start.
  • Recent research found benefits from using a strong agronomic package – good quality, large seed with higher seeding rates and a seed treatment gave the most consistent results.
  • Target 25 to 30 plants per square foot in the fall. Seeding rates should increase if planting is delayed.
  • Seed into standing stubble to catch the first snow for insulation.
  • Seed shallow. Winter wheat has a short coleoptile and will not emerge from deep seeding. Winter cereals require little moisture to germinate. In very dry conditions, winter cereals will imbibe moisture, vernalize and grow the following year.
  • Hybrid fall rye is a relatively new option for production. Hybrid fall rye is a high-performing crop and should be treated as such. New hybrids will significantly out-yield open-pollinated varieties. The hybrids have good quality for milling and distilling.
  • Place starter phosphate in or very near the seed row.
  • Some potash blended with the starter phosphate may help improve winter hardiness. 
  • Band only safe rates of fall-applied nitrogen in the seed row with the remainder of the nitrogen away from the seed row, to avoid seedling damage, in a side-band or mid-row band. Use urea or ESN in the sideband/mid-row band based on soil test recommendations. Other products are also available to help minimize nitrogen losses for an early fall application. Super U should be side- or mid-row banded.
  • Spring-applied nitrogen can be broadcast using urea or 28-0-0 with or without Agrotain. Broadcast SuperU is another option. Other products are also available and provide additional options to help minimize nitrogen losses.  
  • Control winter annual weeds before freeze-up.
  • Contact Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation for the seeding deadline for your area.

For more information, call your nearest Crop Extension Specialist or the AKC at 1-866-457-2377, or visit the University of Saskatchewan’s winter wheat website or the Saskatchewan Winter Cereal Development Commission.

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