Wheat Pete's Word, Jan 30: Plugged tile, exposed wheat, wide rows, and soaring fertilizer prices


Can we officially call it the dead of winter? Extremely cold temperatures across most of Canada have most everyone hunkering down and dreaming of warmer temps and a return of the growing season.

Winter is also a time to learn, and Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson is here to answer your production questions, concerns, and challenges. In this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word, he’s talking plugged tile runs, scrimping on nitrogen cautions, and the powerful insulating properties of snow.

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].


  • A listener sent in their 2018 final tally for one field: 126 bu/ac wheat crop, they harvested the straw, and then harvested double crop beans at 35 bu/ac — is wheat the most profitable crop? It all depends on how you look at it and how much you can do on a piece of land in a year
  • Still talk of relay cropping vs double cropping — which practice wins?  You can check out more on this topic here
  • Agricorp is reporting more wheat acres in fall of 2018 for 2019 harvest than the year previously. Ontario has about 900,000 or more wheat acres in at this point and that’s a big number in light of the fall/growing season we had
  • But how is that wheat doing? It’s -16 with no snow cover, is it ok? Photos of the crop in late December vs late January show the crop has added about a leaf in the last month on heavy Essex county clay. Don’t give up on that crop yet!
  • Ontario had two windows to plant wheat: before Sept. 24 and after Oct. 14. That second seeding is likely going to hurt more from exposure. A few inches of snow is a pretty amazing insulator. Don’t take it out until you know it’s good and dead (that might be April)
  • Will 2019 be the season of wheat roots in tile? Last year we had a dry year and good wheat yields — that yield comes from water being found at depth. Shallow tile is most susceptible. What CAN help? In new installations, use outside connectors (less constriction inside), which is more work to set up, or by using a Y connector vs. a T, which should reduce the plugs
  • Is there anything you can do this spring with existing tile? Monitor the grates of outlets, keep ’em clear. And watch for wet spots — use a drone or satellite imagery to identify plugged runs
  • Wheat management: Fertilizer prices have jumped, but with good wheat in the ground, do I stick with the one pound of nitrogen per bushel? We know that 120 to 150 pounds is the maximum economic rate, and that’s not a one-to-one ratio of pounds per bushel (in Western Canada, in fact, it’s actually more like 2 to 2.2 pounds per bushel of potential yield). Realistically, it’s only at 140 or 150 bushel yield potential do we start to need more N than that maximum economic value
  • What is your optimum planting date for wheat in Ontario? Check out OMAFRA’s publication 811
  • With $7 wheat, increased fertilizer costs can be balanced off — make sure you’re not short-changing yield potential
  • Scentless chamomile control in wheat in nova scotia — what are the control options?
  • Questions on recommended soybean populations with a 15 inch drill? You have to start with target plant populations and bump from there. With a drill you’re looking at 177,000 seeds per acre, a planter trims it back to 165,000 seed per acre, and you can get away with 130,000 seeds per acre with a planter on 30″ rows.
  • But row widths, yield, and plant population is a complicated interplay. For a question on wheat at 10″, 12″, or 14″ rows, there could be an advantage to wider rows could be advantageous if water is your most limiting factor, or for white mould in beans (wider rows do decrease the risk)

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