Wheat Pete's Word, Jan 22: Proper pressure, ice, dismal yields, and packing in starch


You’ll have to excuse Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson’s voice for this episode of Wheat Pete’s Word, as the poor lad is suffering from a terrible cold.

But a little frog in his throat isn’t going to stop him from tackling the week’s questions, updates, and challenges. Get a quick summary of some of the recent learning events held in Ontario, including why downforce at seeding can be so key to emergence and if you should break an ice crust over wheat; plus Pete navigates challenges on the “no manure on frozen ground” rules.

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].


  • Overall provincial corn and soybean yields ended up not too bad, as the numbers roll in for some areas, it’s absolutely awful. For Kawartha Lakes, the average corn yield was 99 bu/ac and 24 bu/ac for soybean. Ouch. It’s going back 20 years since that last happened. That is about 59 per cent of the typical average. How do you make money on that? You can’t. This is where crop insurance makes a big difference. It’s not there to make you money but to cover your costs. Let’s hope for so much better in 2020.
  • CerealSmart just wrapped and it was a great day with tonnes of fantastic information. Mike Cowbrough weed specialist with OMAFRA, tackled problem weeds in the wheat crop. We’ll do more on that soon.
  • Phil Needham was there, too. Watch RealAgriculture for Phil here in the Wheat School!
  • Big talk about downforce/depth control trials (specifically SeederForce) on wheat. Needham says he sees a 3-4 bu/ac advantage over conventional drill at a standard-setting (not adjusted)
  • What about planting wheat vs a seeder? On two years of data there was a 9 bu/ac yield increase. Is a planter necessary? It does a better job of seed placement, uniformity, and even emergence in wheat. Not sure on the science yet, but it sets a direction for where agronomy and wheat yield can go
  • Ice crust on wheat: should you break it? If it’s a solid mat of ice and the water is gone underneath, that means there is a little air for that wheat crop, but eventually if sealed, the wheat will suffocate. If you can, safely, break it up to get some airflow. If ice is touching the ground, it’s all bad.
  • Farmer wants to side-band phosphorus (P) with nitrogen (N) at 1.5″ away from the seed, is that a problem? Well, depends how much N you are putting down, more than the P
  • Results of a super short season corn (73 day corn) to a shorter-day corn trial at Elmira had some surprising results. It matured, yup, but test weights were terrible! How come? The corn matures based on heat unit accumulation, so we got there, but when did it tassel? It started grain fill in late August, early September. Grain fill still happened into October, and we just ran out of sunlight energy to do the job of packing in that starch
  • A farmer’s silage is super low protein, what’s going on? Is it an N thing? With corn, S and N together make protein — you likely have enough S, but protein makes more energy to make than starch, and if we struggled to have enough energy to pack in starch, did the same happen for protein? Maybe
  • The rotation argument of corn on corn being better than adding wheat in rotation, because of strip-till. What does the science say? Check out the latest Wheat School on this.
  • Manure a no-go on snow and frozen ground, no one likes this message. Why? Just stop — water flows down to water, and carries the nutrients and solids with it. That’s a fact.
  • But wait! What if I can incorporate it within 24 hours? Well, that’s different, to a point, but if it’s ahead of a rain, then you’ve got plowed soil exposed to a heavy rain. The worst is putting it on 4-5″ of frost, and it’ll take so long for that frost to come out and that puts it at risk of moving that entirely time.
  • What about dry manure on snow is it just as bad? Liquid might be slightly worse, but dry manure still has soluble P, it’ll still move.

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