Wheat Pete's Word, August 2: Spider mites, soil fertility, and wild weather conditions


In this week’s episode of Wheat Pete’s Word, RealAg agronomist Peter Johnson is still floored by the amount of insects he is seeing this year.

He offers some quick updates on alfalfa, some important tips on fertility, and since he apparently didn’t get a chance to talk about it last week, he gives some updates on his wild, wonderful, wheat!

Here’s this week’s Word, and find the summary 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].


  • Markets have had some major down days — further proof that when those markets rally and you get those highs, you have got to use it to your advantage!
  • Wheat yields are continuing to be amazing in Ontario — most growers are still well above average.
  • Good news ! We were worried about seeing fusarium in the northern part of Ontario, but the answer to that is no! Low fusarium across the board so far.
  • We are seeing a little bit of black point. That’s a variety specific disease most of the time, and it means we just had wet weather through grain fill, which is not a big deal. There is rarely a downgrade for black point, but it is out there.
  • Sprouting in soft white wheat… soft white has almost no dormancy factor. It just drives home the point that you should only grow enough soft white wheat if you can get it out of the field in the first 2-3 days to keep that quality. 2% sprout seems to be kind of the common number. Sprouts and falling numbers are related, but it’s not the perfect relationship.
  • Unbelievable – we now have drought conditions in terms of how the corn crop looks. Especially in the deep southwest, they have been well below average rainfall for both June and July. We are now in August and they haven’t caught rain yet. They have corn that is wrapped up in the heat of the day.
  • Meanwhile, you go to eastern Ontario and the combines are driving through water in the field trying to get the wheat out of the field. What crazy conditions!
  • No! “ALERT ALERT ALERT”! In the dryer area of the province we now have spider mites in the soybean crop. Remember, spider mites are hard to see. They start to show up along the grassy borders as that grass dies off and starts to become very unattractive to the spider mites. They move into the soybeans and that’s where we tend to see them first. Spider mites are actually pretty cool insects because they build themselves a little parachute, and the parachute catches the wind and it moves them into the field. And they mostly only go a few feet, but every once in awhile you can get a nice gust of wind that might move them out 30 ft, or even 300 ft out into the field and you can get hot spots in the field. Most of the time though, they’re right along the field borders. If you catch them early and spray those field borders, sometimes you can stop them from using those parachutes to get to the middle of your field.
  • We’ve been talking leafhoppers in alfalfa , and you just have to keep spraying them. Particularly when the alfalfa is small, that’s when they do the most damage. We are also starting to see leafhopper numbers really ramp up in the edible bean crops, so get out there and scout, scout, scout!
  • In corn…if you get in a really high value crop like sweet corn, sometime late in the season they will help chop the tassels off, it will help speed maturity a tad, and it will help increase yield a tad, but to do it in field corn, the chances of it being economical to chop off the tassels isn’t very high.
  • When do you plant your oats and peas for feed? Well the answer is absolutely now! Get it done! Harvest every ray of sunshine that you can.
  • I hate to swath wheat. If you can, desiccate it. When you swath it there’s a chance it rains, and then it really loses qualit . Watch the peduncles and this video on when to go out and desiccate it with glyphosate.
  • Time to think about building fertility — Go back over your three year rotation when it comes to soil fertility. Add up the number of nutrients removed. For corn you remove 0.4 lbs of phosphorus, 0.3 lbs of potash per bushel. For soybeans it’s 0.8 lbs of phosphorus, 1.4 lbs per bushel of potash. For wheat it’s 0.6 lbs of phosphorus, 0.36 lbs of potash per bushel, and for straw it’s 3.5 lbs of phosphorus and 18.5 lbs of potash per tonne. Do the math – figure out how many nutrients you removed, figure out how many nutrients you’ve applied over that 3 year rotation and spread what you need to balance that out on the wheat stubble. Look at your soil test – if you are super high, let it trickle down, don’t replace everything you removed. If you are super low, add some extra to build it up. This is the time of year to get that done!

Listen to previous episodes of the Word here, and listen for Wheat Pete’s Word on RealAg Radio on Thursday afternoon on SiriusXM 147.

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