Wheat Pete's Word, Dec. 4: Kernel shrinkage and test weight trouble, full elevators, and iced over soybeans


If you’ve been waiting for Peter ‘Wheat Pete’ Johnson to answer your question about soil sampling, you’re going to have to wait another week, because this week is mostly about corn, corn, and more corn.

And that’s just the kind of week it’s been in Ontario, as corn harvest ever so slowly creeps towards complete (or as complete as it’s going to get before March). On this episode of Wheat Pete’s Word, Johnson unpacks the head-scratcher that is test weight and corn drying this year, plus how long wheat can live under ice, and why ice-covered beans are a a no-go.

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].


  • World Soil Day is December 5th. The challenge to you all is to do one thing better for your soil this year. What counts? Add a crop to rotation, add cover crops, eliminate a tillage pass, keep more residue on the soil into winter, etc. What else can you grow? Sunflowers, a forage crop, winter canola, malt barley — find a market, think outside the norm! Better soil equals better yields, and better soil comes from a diverse crop rotation.
  • Soil sampling is a hot topic for the Q and A portion of this program, but corn keeps getting in the way. Speaking of…
  • Ontario harvest progress update: Sunday freezing rain started in a large part of Ontario. The London/Woodstock corridor got 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch of freezing rain. We have beans fully encased in ice! What do you do? Wait. You can’t harvest those. The ice will make it to the bin.
  • On corn, that much ice on a weakened plant, and you add wind equals more flattened corn. Many growers had made excellent headway ahead of the rain. Ground was carrying better than expected. The end of harvest could be in site before Christmas for some.
  • But there are those with hundreds of acres yet to go. Give them a call. Check in with them.
  • June 9th corn nearly hit 200 bu/ac. Way better than anticipated.
  • Elevators were full Tuesday for many.
  • How long will wheat survive encased in freezing rain? As long as there’s a bit of air, it’ll be fine, but about two weeks if tight to the ground.
  • Can you still plant rye right now? Yup! Keep on planting.
  • Farm conference season has started rolling! Pete was in Saskatoon this week, for example.
  • Test weight has been driving many people nuts. Huge questions out there. For example, a Bruce country farmer, harvested corn on Nov. 5. The corn was coming off at 35% to 36% moisture, and at 330 or 333 test weight. It went into the dryer (top dry, more gentle vs. tower), plenum at 180 degrees, and the corn came out at 305 test weight. The farmer went back to the field Nov. 30 and the corn is now 31% to 32% moisture, and 305 test weight, same as the dried corn from three weeks previously. What’s going on? Pete unpacks it. We’re talking shrinkage, guys.
  • Working theory: when you finish grain fill in September and October it means starch isn’t packed in tightly (test weight is a function of kernel shape, plus density, plus waxiness of the seed coat)
  • Corn is coming in hot! In a continuous flow dryer some are not cooling the corn, dumping it in the bin hot, letting it stew a little, then drawing that heat out slowly and they are getting good gains on test weight.
  • Having issues drying corn? Let Pete know.
  • Will wet corn ensile? Yes, under 40% moisture, but don’t do it in a tower silo.
  • What about piling it and feeding it out? It’s all about temperature. Cold will preserve it. Not frozen means sprouting and rotting. All bad.

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