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Nitrogen management on wheat: Production, environmental and quality implications

Principal Investigator

Peter Johnson & Jayne Bock

Research Institution

Real Agriculture / C.W. Brabender Instruments

External Funding Partners

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

Project Start

April 2014

Project End

March 2017


  • Evaluate nitrogen response curves for wheat (soft red winter, SRW; hard red winter, HRW; hard red spring, HRS) both with and without fungicides.
  • Develop a wheat N calculator that includes fungicide-use as a parameter.
  • Evaluate N management impacts on wheat quality.
  • Determine if protein quantity in Ontario HRW is a good indicator of functionality.


  • The development of a wheat nitrogen (N) calculator may allow for reduced N use and increase grower profitability, while reducing potential environmental impact.
  • The determination of flour functionality will allow for the processing industry to find ways to better utilize the quality of wheat grown in Ontario and may open new markets.
  • The producers and the processing industry may see improvements in terms of growing high yields of wheat that offer the best quality to the wheat industry.

Scientific Summary

Wheat is a major crop in Ontario, with a combined winter and spring acreage of approximately 1 million acres grown annually. Unfortunately, keeping wheat in the Ontario rotation is a constant struggle because wheat yield increases and profitability lag far behind those for corn and soybeans. Wheat is extremely valuable in the rotation under Ontario conditions, adding up to 8 bu/ac of corn yield, and 5 bu/ac of soybean yield (Ontario Rotation Trials). Including wheat in the rotation greatly improves soil health and organic matter, making soils more resilient when climatic extremes are encountered. Finding ways to keep wheat profitable and in the rotation is critical. Recent quality issues have also had acreage impacts. Poor quality in 2011 and 2012 resulted in premiums dropping for HRW, which in turn have resulted in significant drops in the amount grown (7.5% of wheat acreage in 2014 from 21% in 2006). Wheat yields, profitability, and quality must all be addressed in order to maintain wheat acres in the province. The development of a nitrogen calculator for wheat would greatly improve environmental impacts, wheat quality, and grower profitability.

This project will evaluate nitrogen (N) response curves for wheat (soft red winter, hard red winter, and hard red spring), with and without fungicides, and assess these management inputs through to the quality of the flour in the milling industry. This data, along with previous nitrogen data from Ontario, will be used to develop an Ontario nitrogen calculator for wheat. In addition, this project will evaluate protected nitrogen sources and Plant Growth Regulator (PGR) technology to determine the impact on yield, protein, maturity, lodging and economics. The samples from these trials will be evaluated for milling and baking quality as field management has a significant impact on wheat flour functionality. Samples will be evaluated for quality parameters that have been identified by industry as problematic in the current wheat supply. Protein quality will be assessed in hard wheat to help the industry better understand implications of field management, and whether accepted standards such as protein quantity are the right measure to use for actual flour functionality and protein quality.