Wheat Pete's Word, Jan 2: Soil testing philosophies, seeding in January, smearing soil, and sulphur strips


Happy New Year, listeners!

Peter ‘Wheat Pete’ Johnson is back with the 191st episode of Wheat Pete’s Word and it could be the very first episode in months not to use that dreaded three-letter word (DON). Instead, this episode talks soil sampling and nutrient recommendation philosophies, dealing with ruts and wet fall conditions, winter manure spreading strategies, and some neat details on strip tillage tips for success.

Have a question you’d like Johnson to address? Or some yield results to send in? Disagree with something he’s said? Leave him a message at 1-888-746-3311, send him a tweet (@wheatpete), or email him at [email protected].


  • How much rain did we get for 2018? A surprisingly high amount, given the drought conditions for the first half of the growing season. Remember that for later in this episode (that’s called foreshadowing)
  • Soil fertility — remember last episode’s discussion on increasing phosphorus availability on a soil test without having added phosphorus. Say what? It’s important to remember that soil sampling and testing, soil testing protocols are variable and only part of the soil fertility puzzle. We sample a cup of soil, and analyze a thimble full, really…and we do end up with reliable info! But it has limits, of course. It means sample over time and keep good records!
  • Do cover crops and rotation take the place of all phosphorus additions? As in, can I mine that phosphorus instead? In long-term trials, and we’re still getting data, but we know that mid-range soil fertility values give us the best results (so you need to keep levels up). Keep those tests in the moderate range.
  • Fert recommendation philosophy: where do numbers come from? There’s a new edition of the soil fertility handbook (learn more here) which help describe max economic return in the year of recommendations, but maybe not max yield. That’s important.
  • The key is to build our soils into mid-range because that means making sure we’re keeping the environment in mind, too (i.e. avoiding too-high levels of any nutrient).
  • Manure, manure, manure. The evidence is clear: no poop spreading on snow. But the practical reality of a wet, wet year means that many pits are full. What’s the best bet for plan B or C? If you must spread, make sure the ground is only frosted, not frozen hard, and there is no rain in the forecast. Also, if there is very little snow and it’s going to melt, that’s OK, too, but six inches of snow? No go.
  • Is it too late for cereal rye drilled in with phosphorus? We’re having a pretty warm fall/early winter for some areas. Go ahead!
  • If you’re stuck with a drill fill of wheat seed, do you get it in the ground now? It’s going to have to vernalize, which means needs to be in by the end of January at the latest. Make sure you have realistic yield goals (dial them down).
  • Using digestate on high yield wheat — do i have enough S? There may be enough background S, given the field history. Leave strips to evaluate a response.
  • Plows came out this fall in full force, another result of such a wet fall.  *heavy sigh* Remember that you still need good conditions, or it’s good money being thrown after bad (smear, smear, smear, that soil)
  • WheatPete shares some strip tillage tips. Yes, you can put P and K down now, because it’s into the strip (incorporated)
  • How deep should you strip till? A range of 4″ to 8″ deep, and make that berm!

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