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Winter wheat label program educating consumers

A new program is looking to encourage consumers to choose products made with winter wheat, a variety that has some key advantages compared to others.

Winter wheat is planted late in the fall season, after harvest has emptied out the fields, and continues to soak in nutrients as seeds and shoots are insulated by snow.

That wheat is then harvested in the summer, much earlier than any spring variety.

With its unique growing cycle, winter wheat can create a lot of benefits for the environment, according to Wade Gray, a winter wheat farmer who's located to the Northwest of Moose Jaw.

He says that the label will hopefully inform consumers about what is made by winter wheat, and hopefully do to that consumers will make choices that expand winter wheat as a market.

He also detailed some of the different environmental benefits winter wheat brings to the table.

"Winter wheat, over spring wheat, if you wanted to use that example, winter wheat is seeded in the fall so your ground is not disturbed in the springtime," said Gray, "So it becomes an ideal place for ducks and songbirds to nest,  the ground is not disturbed until the next fall."

That additional cover for animals can be crucial on the prairies, as many fields will be nearly barren after being harvested in the fall.

While pest control is often one of the most important parts of both agriculture and environmental stewardship, Gray says that winter wheat has the advantage of not needing as stringent of control as other varieties do.

"Another benefit to the environment is that winter wheat doesn't use as many herbicides or chemicals," said Gray, "A lot of times the crop is ahead of the weeds in the springtime, you have a lot less chance of getting fusarium head blight, which is a disease, and also there's very minimal chance of wheat midge." 

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