Wheat Pete's Word, April 3: PGRs and more N, clover inoculant, sad Oct. wheat, and the black hole


It must be April — farmers in Alberta are starting to roll out and farmers in Ontario are ready to pull the plug on wheat.

This early April edition of Wheat Pete’s Word is bursting with great questions from across Canada, including PEI, and even down in the U.S., including Pennsylvania and Indiana! Host Peter ‘Whet Pete’ Johnson has got answers for your top agronomy questions this week around red clover, cereal rye, organic N, N stabilizers, and PGR management. (Full summary below)

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].


  • Listen whiners, spring is going to get here. Be patient…
  • ALERT ALERT ALERT is the cool kid saying these days
  • Comment: time to get back to Sesame Street! The letter of the season is S. S is for September and for soybeans. A listener from Lambton, Ont. says 50 per cent of October wheat on heavy clays is going to be replanted to something else. Just not enough snow cover, icing over. What to do?
  • Which brings us to, The black hole of winter wheat — you’re better off with either more advanced, or not advanced at all wheat instead of 2-leaf wheat headed into winter. 2-leaf wheat has used its seed reserves but isn’t advanced enough to make its own food. Mid-October wheat hit that Black Hole stage. The last-planted wheat might be better off, as they’ll still have some reserves to draw from. Sigh, poor wheat.
  • By the way, a lot of that mid-October wheat on better ground is going to be OK Wheat Pete says, except for where water sat on it….
  • South of the border: early January frost seeded wheat was up on April 1. That’s super cool! But did it vernalize? It’s warmer in Pennsylvania than Ontario. If it didn’t freeze, t’s just going to be green! Forage crop will just be a lawn…let us know how it ends up
  • Nitrogen on late planted wheat — can I go out on snow? It just won’t end up where you want and it can also volatalize! No go, full stop
  • Early N CAN stimulate late wheat to tiller this srping, but no guarantee, add some S while you’re at it, as it needs the help
  • Got chickweed in wheat crop like crazy, but really want red clover in there? Spray the chickweed as early as you can with Refine in early April, it will work in cool temps. Very little to no residual, so give it a few days and then spread the clover (but not before spraying!)
  • PEI question: Red clover with inoculant on snow — will it kill the inoculant? Really, there’s not much benefit to inoculating clover unless soil pH is less than 5.8, other than that, it’s native and most soils have enough inoculant. In pasture, you want to thicken it up? Red clover and orchardgrass both have aggressive seedlings
  • Manipulator question: if you use it, how much more N can you use? Well, do you have a lodging problem now? We’re doing research on this and using around 30 pounds more.
  • Flag leaf wheat, v8 to v10 corn N question. If I use Agrotain or similar product, can I cut N rates, and save 20 to 30 pounds of N? Absolutely not. There’s no question these products stabilize the N, but it’s rare that we lose enough without these products. They’re a great insurance policy AND they decrease greenhouse gas production, so they are insurance against the weather going against you and really you would have had to add more, not less.
  • Data out of France says that organic wheat production from 2007 to 2015, yields have only averaged 40% of conventional. In Ontario, organic production averages 67-70 per cent of conventional. It drives home that wheat needs N early and that can be very tough in organic systems for winter wheat
  • Cover crop work out of Ontario done by Dr. Laura van Eerd, six years of cover crops with processing vegetables, looking at an early to mid-July harvest, then cover crops. Her work compared no-cover to cover, most of them cluster around microbial biomass. No cover crop had only 20 per cent of the microbial biomass of the best or any of the cover crops. That’s outstanding! Relates to soil organic matter. A 10 per cent reduction in soil organic carbon of no cover vs the best cover. What was the best? Cereal rye with radish was best. 40 per cent reduction in water aggregate stability. Wow.
  • In Indiana, oat roots in tile drains. They like to grow oats after soybean but  a long, dry fall means oat roots plugging drainage tile
  • Living roots idea: as a new farmer, and growing organic, can I broadcast cereal rye after last tillage pass ahead of corn? Nope, not the greatest, but do it BEFORE last tillage pass, the cereal rye may survive — usually go in at tassel to broadcast it in.It just doesn’t compete through the July/August time frame. Try it and see, but compare vs late August

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