How does wheat grow?
Explore the process from start to finish
Did you know that over seven million acres of wheat are planted in Alberta each year? That’s about six to seven million tonnes of wheat produced every year! The first recorded production of grain in the Canadian prairies was the harvest of twenty-three ten-gallon kegs of wheat by the Red River Colony in 1814, founded by Lord Selkirk. Now, over twenty million acres of wheat are grown across Canada yearly.
So how does the process work? Take a look through the planting, growing and harvesting seasons below to get an idea of the cycle of wheat.
Before the seeds even go in the ground, farmers need to decide on the variety of seed to plant. Details on the varieties are shared by the seed companies and producer groups, like Alberta Wheat, so growers can make the best decision for their operation. They may also take into consideration seed trials done by universities to better understand how a variety will perform for them.
Spring wheat planting happens early spring, dependent on weather conditions. A warm spring could mean seeds are going in the ground early April, but a cold spell could push that date back weeks to allow the ground to soften enough for planting.
Farmers don’t stop once the seeds are planted! Farmers will be out scouting fields during the growing season to look for things like pests and diseases to ensure a proper management strategy is in place. They will often work with specialists like agronomists and crop scouts to put together a plan to combat any issues they find in the fields—things like signs of chewing or rotten stems would be an indicator that there is a pest to be managed in that crop.
Harvesting spring wheat comes in the fall when the stalks change from green to golden brown. Harvest is a busy time for farmers, as they may be managing hundreds or thousands of acres and the timeframe to get the crop in could be very short depending on the weather. The harvested wheat can then end up in a variety of places—as whole wheat seeds at your local health food store, milled into flour for your favourite bread or even exported to countries like Italy, who use durum wheat to produce delicious pasta!
This process takes a lot of hard work and determination and we are so thankful to our Canadian wheat growers for providing us with Life’s Simple Ingredient.