Wheat Pete's Word, August 16: Dream farm shops, neonics, and manure tests


From doggone insect issues to dream farm shops, we have some exciting things to cover on this week’s episode of Wheat Pete’s Word.

RealAg agronomist Peter Johnson tackles some cereal questions regarding harvest timing, winter cereal planting, nitrogen losses in manure, and more. Listen here, and read some of the highlights below:

Your questions/feedback/yield results are needed! Leave Peter a message at 1-888-746-3311, send him a tweet (@wheatpete), or email him at [email protected].

  • My Real Dream Workshop — we are going to do a video series on farm work shops in Ontario. So #Ontag , if you have a cool idea or something unique, that really works well in your workshop, I want to know! Text me, email me, leave it in the voicemail system, put it on twitter. We’d like to get out there and put this together. I know there are so many cool ideas out there, I just have to know where to go to actually video them.
  • The doggone insects have not gone away! The leafhopper just seems to continue to be a huge problem. Particularly in alfalfa and across most of the province. People with all sorts of moisture are wondering why there second cut was so poor. They cut the second cut, and the third cut isn’t cutting very well. And in almost all of those cases it is leafhopper. I’ve talked about this before, I’m not going to dwell on it, but you’ve got to spray before the alfalfa is small if you have many leafhoppers. That’s when they do the most damage.
  • Western bean cutworm – it’s moved now. The peak moth flight has moved from southwestern Ontario to now central Ontario. We’re seeing tweets about larvae getting into cobs out in that part of the world. As entomologist Tracey Baute notes, you need to spray when there’s green silk. That’s the key. If the silks have turned brown, you’re simply not going to get control because they feed on the silk, and that’s how they ingest the insecticide.
  • You need to continue scouting for western bean cutworm in edible beans. We’re just starting to see some twitter activity around some feeding injury in edible beans. Some of the early edibles are actually starting to mature fairly quickly. They’ve probably escaped because they won’t be as attractive to the moths but the late edibles… get out there and scout. It’s one of those situations where it can cause significant damage to seed quality.
  • On the neonic situation — so for the people listening outside of Ontario, we have legislation where we have to do a pest assessment in order to buy neonic treated seed. For the people in Ontario, as of August 31st, in the Tier 1 counties, you must have done your pest assessment before August 31st. If I did my pest assessment in May of 2017, I could do it myself, and if I found above the threshold for insect pressure, I can buy my neonic treated seed in the fall of 2017 to plant in 2018. But if I don’t get my pest assessment done by August 31st, then I need to hire a professional. So if you haven’t gotten your pest assessment, get out there, and get it done before the 31st of August, it just makes life easier! Tier 1, the next time you do a pest assessment you will have to get it done by a professional. Tier 2 is a year behind that, and Tier 3 is a year behind that. So hopefully that helps people sort that out.
  • When it comes to cereal crop maturity, it’s all temperature dependant. So if you were getting those 30 plus days and having nights at 20 plus, then you are actually adding up about 25 growing degree units every day. Whereas now if you’ve backed off to kind of that 20 degree daytime temperature and 10 degree nights, you’ve backed down to only 15 degree growing days. Remember growing degree days is high temperature, plus low temperature, divided by 2 for cereal crops. So it really helps you understand why things have put the brakes on in parts of Western Canada where the heat has subsided. I think it’s a good thing that you’ve put the breaks on, because the faster you mature, the less time that plant has to translocate either food reserves out of the stem, or to photosynthesize more. So as long as we’re pounding stuff into the kernel, I think that’s a good thing.
  • When is it too early to plant wheat? I’ve had that question from many different people in many different locations. There is no one answer, because it depends on your geography. What I would say is look at your normal best planting date, and it’s probably earlier than what you’ve generally done. You have to look at your risks as well – and there are some risks – if you are going to plant ultra early, drop your seeding rate! Get down into that one million seeds per acre – you’ll actually get higher yields because you won’t get so much plant to plant competition in the fall. You’ll get lots of tillering in the fall as well. Also look at your soil type. There are growers on really heavy clay that could not get the crop planted this year. Look at the weather forecast. If I have heavy clay and I see a lot of rain in the forecast when you are planning on seeding the winter wheat, and I know my soil can get quite wet, get in there and seed it early!
  • If you are worried about the size and variety of your wheat, go to www.gocereals.ca and do the head to head variety comparison. That’s where you will get the multi-year data, and you can pick on heading date which will be a good indication of maturity.
  • If you are spreading your manure, do a pH test. And what’s really interesting, is if you have a high pH and a lot of free ammonia, when you spread that manure on the soil surface, most of that ammonia can be gone within the first few minutes. So the 24 hour incorporation that we used to say is really quite good, if you have high pH manure, you’ve lost most of that ammonia nitrogen just by the process of how that works. So check your pH. If you have high pH then you better be getting that either injected or incorporated within a few minutes – not a few hours. And do this carbon to nitrogen ratio. That’s another test most growers don’t do. You’re carbon to nitrogen ratio will tell you when the organic nitrogen in that manure will become available. Look at a critical value of about 25:1, if you are below that, that organic nitrogen is going to become available quite quickly. If you are above that it’s going to become available much more slowly. And of course the further away you move from that 25:1, the more quickly, or more slowly that nitrogen will become available. Very very cool stuff!

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