To the surprise of possibly few, Peter Johnson has officially been named a nut — a ground nut specialist, in fact. As of right now, Johnson is on his way home from a mission to Zambia, where he was named peanut specialist for the two weeks. What did he learn? If wheat is all about phosphorus, peanuts (or ground nuts, as they’re called) are all about calcium. Very cool.

And that’s where we start this very first March 2017 episode of Wheat Pete’s Word, where the theme of the week is soil health. What’s the easiest measure of soil health, you ask? Organic matter levels. Organic matter is the basis for every other soil function (water holding, nutrient capacity, soil microbial activity) so it’s imperative that farmers not just understand how it works, but also how to maintain it AND build it.

Johnson covers some huge topics in this 16 minutes — from soiling your undies, to how erosion takes away the best part of your top soil, to cover crop diversity and so much more. Summary and links to mentioned posts below!

Don’t forget to send Peter your questions and comments! Leave a message at 1-888-746-3311, send him a tweet (@wheatpete), or email him at [email protected].


  • Why it’s important to compare field soil values to fence rows or un-farmed ditches (and what you can learn)
  • The role of soil organic matter — water holding, nutrient availability and more (Hear a discussion on carbon-starved soils, here)
  • Changing practices for the long-term, and being realistic about progress
  • What soil bugs eat (and tie up) and why that means you must have at least three crops in rotation
  • How to measure soil microbial activity: Healthy soil will eat your underwear
  • How soil amendments (and residues) impact soil bugs

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