Wheat Pete's Word, Jan 29: Fill times, phosphorus movement, and where in the world is Wheat Pete?


Have you thought about how much time you spend just re-filling during planting and seeding? Fill times for spraying often get plenty of attention, but there’s actually plenty of hours to gain at planting too, depending on your set up.

In this week’s edition of Wheat Pete’s Word, a much healthier Peter Johnson is talking planter fills, phosphorus movement, soil temperature fluctuations and much more. Plus, he promises to let you know ahead of time where he’ll be across Canada and the U.S. so you can catch him in person (and challenge him with your toughest agronomy questions!)

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].


  • Wheat Pete is on the road! This week he’s in Michigan. Next week, find him in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia talking about wheat.
  • Talk about a drag you down forecast. At the event Pete is at, he heard that models suggest February and March are going to be cold and snowy. Oh no! But when it breaks, it’s going to head warmer than normal and breaks in April. Fingers crossed, and we’ll see what happens. We need a warm, dry April across Ontario, please.
  • Work on phosphorus shows just how bad even one event of manure on frozen ground can be. Data from a 2003/2004 monitoring project showed that on one field, representing less than 10% of the area monitored put out more phosphorus following a thunderstorm than the entire watershed did over the next 18 months! Yes, it can be that bad.
  • So, one farmer is going to windrow dry manure along a tree line on this year’s winter wheat field. Right now, the roads are dry, they’re not making a mess or causing compaction, and the manure will be right where they need it to spread after the wheat comes off. That’s the ticket!
  • Phil Needham suggested getting an infra red heat gun to gauge temp at a distance. They are a couple hundred bucks, and you can use them to check bearings and get a jump on fixing up the combine before a bearing goes. But they are also useful for soil, and seeing the difference compaction makes (hint: compacted soil is cooler)
  • Corn planting tip: plant deeper for more viable plants per acre. One trial found 1,ooo more plants per acre at 3″ vs 2″ planting depth with a little more yield. Is 2.5″ even better? Will look into that.
  • Can you make more time? A farmer switched liquid fertilizer system to a dry cart, and compared the two. The dry cart has added flexibility as he plants corn with it, does strip-till, puts down P and K , and side-dresses the corn, and he uses it for wheat nitrogen, too. A great big air cart can fill faster and get acres covered in day. How many? The dry cart required 8 times of filling vs 19 times for the liquid system, using 80 minutes vs 190 minutes for fills in a day. Basically, using the dry system bought him 2 hours of working time in a day. An extra 34 acres in the ground per day.
  • Follow up from last week’s discussing on planting vs. drilling wheat: The trial was a Monosem planter vs. Great Plains drill. Monosem at 5″ spacing and 7.5″ vs 7.5″ with the drill, but also looked at 10″, 15″, and across populations of 500,000 seeds, one million, 1.5 million and 2 million seeds/acre. The 8-9 bu increase was 7.5″ planted with Monosem planter vs 7.5″ drill at the same seeding rate.
  • Stalled out wheat yields, could it be the row width? A farmer went from 7.5″ and moved to 12″ spacing and yields have flatlined. Is it spacing? Maybe do a trial at both. Also, how much more phosphorus can you put with thee seed for wheat and canola in the narrower row width? 12/7.5= 1.6….which means you can put 60% more MAP right with the seed at 7.5 vs 12.
  • Red clover woes. Aa farmer tried red clover in Michigan, but let it grow in the fall, didn’t take it out in time and ended up with a mess in the spring. Soil microbes likely not as active at the surface. If you can get it established, strip-till it, spray in the fall, and the clover that covers the strip will breakdown and you’ll have lovely strips to plant in to.
  • Don’t give up on red clover! Thin stand? Add oats, to keep that soil covered.
  • Is rye straw toxic to feed cattle? Nope. Feed it.
  • A farmer has had tile in the ground for 35 years and 30 years of no-till, and the first time ever there is snow on the tile run vs. no snow on the surface between the tiles. Why? Soil water movement. Right now, the wetter areas will actually be a tiny bit warmer and melt the snow. Over the tile run is drier, therefore cooler (the opposite is true in the spring/warm months).


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