Wheat Pete's Word, Nov 20: The economics of leaving corn out, propane shortages, and performance trial delays


There was a time when most hoped that 2019 would turn out better than past challenging years, but the term “being 2019’d” has come to mean…well, insult being added to injury.

From the ‘harvest from hell’ in the west, to wet, nasty weather hindering Ontario’s harvest, and now a rail strike already limiting propane access so that farmers and elevators can’t dry said wet corn, 2019 continues to dole out challenges. In this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word, host Peter Johnson tackles some of the biggest questions stemming from a late harvest, the pros and cons of leaving crops out to overwinter, and navigating crop insurance.


  • We’re continuing to get 2019’d, you guys.
  • When are Ontario corn and soy performance trials going to be ready? Corn is delayed, so don’t expect them soon. Soybeans? They are close, but not up yet. Will let you know.
  • Harvest challenges abound: wet corn, wet fields, fighting mud, and too many photos of unloading gear box issues because of heavy, wet 36% moisture corn. Ouch.
  • Is it OK to combine on snow?  Well, snow on the ground doesn’t mean there’s frost in the ground. Snow is insulating, and sometimes it looks OK and holds up OK, but it can still cause compaction because the ground isn’t always frozen.
  • CN Rail strike is hindering propane supplies, adding insult to injury. Read more here.
  • There are reports of some good late-planted corn. June 3rd planted corn hit 210 bushels at Grade 3. Another farmer reported 221-246 bu/ac corn. But it sure isn’t all good.
  • Other areas are absolutely rough. North Huron: 35.5% moisture, 14.2% dockage for fines and cob, etc. Grade 5, low yield. Do the math? Gross of $400 an acre. Ouch.
  • This generates the question: am I better off to leave corn out all winter? Crop insurance never makes a grower harvest a crop in the fall with good reason. Double check with Agricorp, BUT they won’t pay a claim until it is harvested, and you WILL have to harvest it.
  • Try the push test for standability (video here)
  • What if you’re in a claim position, anyway? Maybe it’s still more economically viable to leave it out? The downside: ugly volunteer corn problem next year, you could be fighting mud in the spring, too, which is worse for the 2020 crop than fall compaction, and you’ll still have some drying costs if you harvest in March. The upside:March corn should hit 18-19% moisture, and test weight will improve, with fewer fines (less dockage), plus you’ll feed deer, and turkeys, and birds, and no storage costs.
  • Here’s the deal: let’s be smart about leaving corn out — snow is your nemesis. if the snow gets over the cob, that’s game over. For those who have done this before, leave two to four outside rows, then harvest the next 18 rows on the headland. It’s a snow trap! And it should keep most of the snow out of the actual crop.
  • As an example, over wintering beans in ’14 vs ’15: 100% yield loss vs only some yield loss! See the tweet below.
  • Send in those plot results, please.
  • Trial of 35,000 plant population at 30″ rows, vs. more plants on narrower rows….and experienced a 27 bushel loss with 40,000 plants at 15″. Need to look at the why.
  • In North Dakota: a farmer had a one-pass miss on seed-placed fertilizer on malt barley in 2018, and saw a 17 bushel yield hit on that missed pass. That same field in 2019, the farmer could see the legacy, as it translated to a 5.4 bushel yield increase in this year’s soybeans. This is on low-testing soil, but it goes to show that base fertility matters.
  • How late can I soil test for N? Heck, all the way through to March! But if you really want to assess lost N over the winter, you need to get a 2 foot sample now and later. And that can be fight.
  • Question about cereal rye sitting at flag leaf right now — what should I expect next spring for re-growth? Well, if it went to flag and has a head it wasn’t winter rye, it was spring rye. If there’s a head now it’s DEAD. Should have put it up for feed this fall. Lesson learned.
  • Can you still plant winter wheat? Wheat Pete has planted as late as Jan 23rd, and yes, it made a crop.
  • Looking for feed and straw —what’s better, winter wheat now or do a good job on spring wheat in the spring? If you plant now and it survives, you’ll get more grain and just as much straw. Frost seed Friday or Saturday? The weather may allow it. Well-drained soil and winter survival.

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