Wheat Pete's Word, Mar. 27: Worms! Big soybean yields, cover crops and N tie-up, and resistant corn borers


It’s too bad we can’t go a week or so without some troubling news, and this week is no exception after reports of European corn borer developing resistance to a hybrid trait. But, don’t fret, as this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word features some real neat and positive discussions, including some soil chat about the hard work earthworms can do on your behalf and on to super neat plant/bacteria/nutrient interplays.

From there, host Peter Johnson covers questions on high-yield soybeans, super low soil tests, spring triticale, and more. Listen on!

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].


  • We have confirmed resistance of European corn borer to the Herculex gene identified in eastern Canada, in Nova Scotia to be exact. Bad news! Before we had genetic resistance, heavy corn borer pressure ate yield, lodged crops, and created a mess. It’s a reminder that resistance is inevitable, even with careful management. Keep up the stewardship.
  • Some great talks on the rhizophere around roots this week — what we’re learning so much about root hair development, nutrient availability, and plant and bacteria symbiosis beyond n-fixation. Super cool stuff and stuff we’re just beginning to understand
  • See the below soil test from an old pasture. What do the numbers say? Is this a healthy soil? Phos at 13, K at 12! Super, duper low. Wheat Pete’s never seen a K number lower than the P number. Is it healthy? Well, there’s organic matter as a measure of soil health, sure, but super low fertility levels doesn’t a healthy soil make
  • Looking at the data, can I make corn/soy work without the wheat and still build organic matter? We need the wheat! Full stop. Embrace it.
  • In early March a farmer frost seeded some leftover cereal rye — what’s going to happen? Will it grow? Well, it’s all about time….I don’t think we have enough time for it to do much for organic matter but it’ll put down some roots for sure
  • Discussion for those using cover crops: do you reduce your N rates on subsequent crops? Unless it’s a legume, red clover or alfalfa, most would tell you no, and stems tie up N, so while it may immobilize some N, it doesn’t leave a credit
  • In fact, a University of Iowa article from 2016, a bad year for N loss, estimated loss to waterways in an area to be 1 billion pounds. WOW. 42. 7 pounds per acre of corn and soy grown in that area. Both acreage type lost the same amount. Why? Remember that N comes out of the soil over the winter period. So, do cover crops tie that N up? Yes, but only about 1/3 of it. It’s a leaky system. Ouch.
  • Deep ripping and compaction — is it the answer? We’re going to talk more about this as field days begin, I promise
  • Earthworms! They are our friends (mostly) and can do a lot of good work in the soil, breaking up compaction, cycling nutrients. In fact, some estimate earthworms contribute as much as 20 tonnes of castings per acre and it’s better than compost
  • High yield soybeans, how do we get there? Horst Bohner’s recipe is all about planting early!
  • Spring triticale seeding rates? Similar to spring wheat, target live plant density you’re comfortable with, and remember triticale is larger than wheat
  • On thin wheat, October wheat, it’s struggled, do we keep it or not? Straw yield has to play a factor, as it’ll be worth money. Rule of thumb: halve the expected grain yield for straw yield estimate
  • Tillering and growth regulators — what can we do?
  • 28% on with the planter: two options, dribble banding or in between the twin rows. But watch your total rate and make sure you have that 2″ of separation.



Wake up with RealAgriculture

Subscribe to our daily newsletters to keep you up-to-date with our latest coverage every morning.

Wake up with RealAgriculture

Other Episodes

Wheat Pete's Word (view all)Season 5 (2019) Episode 38

Please register to read and comment.


Register for a RealAgriculture account to manage your Shortcut menu instead of the default.