Wheat Pete's Word — May 6: Too-Deep Tillage, Sad-Looking Wheat, Corn Stalk Bales, & Alfalfa Establishment


We’re into the first week of May, and the challenges facing farmers this year couldn’t be any more different than last year, even if we planned it. Speaking of polar opposite, let’s kick off this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word with a look at the tale of two wheat crops — those that look GREAT, and those that are about to go under the chopping block.

In this week’s update, Peter Johnson, aka Wheat Pete, answers just what the heck is going on with this stalled-out, late-planted wheat. Farmers expect low spots to have drown out, but the knolls seem to have gone, too, but what IS there isn’t growing. The crop that’s not advancing is likely suffering from cold injury, says Johnson, and needs moisture and heat to kick it out of park and into drive.

For those who put N on winter wheat hoping for a boost in crop growth may be disappointed so far — what’s going on? Johson suggests looking back at the weather since you’ve applied the N. There may not have been enough moisture since application to get that N to the wheat crop. Frost-seeded spring cereals on the other hand is growing like gang-busters! Why is that? Listen to the audio below.

As we move on to tillage and planting conditions, we continue with our theme of either end of the spectrum. Depending on your area, you may be planting into some of the best soil conditions in a very long time, as most areas of missed pounding rains that can wreak havoc on a seed bed. If you’re into heavy clays, however, the soil is dry, hard, and working up giant fist-sized-clay clods of no good. In an effort to plant, farmers are working the soil deep, too deep, says Johnson, you’ve got to focus on the surface, or that corn that’s down 3? or soybeans down to 2.5? are going to have a heckuva time getting through. For those with dry, clumpy fields, remember to pack, pack, pack, to bring moisture up from below. Tillage is an art, and sometimes means doing things rather differently than you’re used to.

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Farmers who had to spring harvest corn are finding the corn stalks are making for some incredibly nice bales — while those with cereals might begrudge farmers this (don’t worry, it makes better bedding than feed, so all is not lost), but the most important thing is to remember that corn stalks are far higher in potassium than cereal stalks. If you’re removing corn stalks, you MUST factor in removed potash, and, to a lesser extent, phosphorus.

Related: Hear past episodes of Wheat Pete’s Word here!

Johnson wraps up this week’s Word with two points: annual weeds are bolting in some areas, so get out there, scout and spray, and, if you’ve got winter rye, don’t underestimate the maturity of the crop. If you plan to underseed alfalfa (or did), that winter rye needs to come off in May, not June, in order to give the alfalfa a fighting chance.

That’s it, that’s all, for this week. Remember to call 1-888-746-3311 to leave your questions for Wheat Pete!

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Wheat Pete's Word (view all)Season 1 (2015) Episode 35

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