Wheat Pete's Word — June 10: Water Logged and Crusting Soils, S on Alfalfa, & Leaf Spots on Wheat


We should know better than to be surprised by the weather, but wow, some areas of the province have gone from too dry to rain, rain, rain. In some areas, reports of up to six inches of rain is causing ponding, flooding, and is delaying first planting, let alone replanting.

And so, we can think of no better way to kick off Wheat Pete’s Word, hosted by Peter Johnson, than to talk water. Up first, how long can crops survive under water? You’ll often hear the “48 hour” number, but weather conditions matter, and cooler weather could prolong the life of flooded out crops, but Johnson does say to take note: flooded soys and edible beans will take a yield hit. Root rots move in in wet conditions, but yield losses should be limited to the lower areas and shouldn’t, on average, be too high.

Related: See and Hear Past Episodes of Wheat Pete’s Word Here!

Of course, what happens once the water recedes? Crusting. What can you do about it? No one is going to like Johnson’s answer, but if you’re worried about crusting it’s time to get the rotary hoe brushed off and on the field just as soon as you can. Drive it early and drive it darn fast, he says. Though if you can’t bring yourself to do it, or don’t have one, your drill coulters or double discs will do, but it’ll be slow going. Just remember, not matter which you use, make sure the beans aren’t knuckling through when you pass over the field — that’ll break the neck on those seeds and they’ll be done for.

Ponding also leads to concerns about nitrogen loss. Those worried about leaching should quit it, says Johnson, as that N won’t be too far gone to end up back in the root zone soon, but denitrification is a real risk if soils remain saturated for an extended period. Warm soils will lose nitrogen more quickly, so if you do have 36 hours or more of saturated conditions, take a soil temp reading and next week we’ll circle back and estimate lost N.

Speaking of, the provincial nitrate results are finally here. See all the details in FieldCropNews.

On to the hay crop, now, as some farmers in the southwest are reporting pretty disappointing yields. What’s to blame? Winter kill and patchy regrowth are playing a part, but get those stems into a lab for sulphur levels. An analysis below 0.25% means your hay crop is deficient in sulphur and a top up now of about five pounds per tonne of alfalfa could have a dramatic impact on yields. Wheat Pete goes into much more detail on this topic in the audio below.

Lastly, we can’t have a weekly update without talking about wheat! For those suspecting that discoloration or spotting on upper wheat leaves could be disease, whoa now. It’s far more likely to be physiological fleck or spot, which means a fungicide won’t help one bit. Check to see if it’s only upper leaves affected. If that’s the case, it’s not disease, it’s just environmental. The only disease you may see on new leaves and not old would be stripe rust, and if it is rust you’d better call Pete. Michigan is on alert and it has yet to be found in Ontario, so keep your eyes sharp.

Related: Top tips for fusarium spraying in wheat

And, last but not least, have you missed the fusarium suppression window? Maybe the timing isn’t ideal, given rain delays, but even if you’re on to day seven or eight, you’re still going to get 70% to 80% control, and that’s worth it. You’ll get more yield, maintain quality, and get more straw. Book a plane if you have to, but get that fusarium product on.

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