Wheat Pete's Word, Feb 12: Frost seeding cereals, row-width trade-offs, and #plant20 begins


Wide vs. narrow rows — which is best for top yields? As always, it depends.

It depends on the crop you’re growing, your climate, and the architecture of the variety or hybrid you choose. There are other factors too, as discussed in this episode of Wheat Pete’s Word, with host Peter Johnson. Available equipment, what else you’re trying to plant at the same time, tire tracks, and more all influence what row-width spacing will be ideal. Also in this episode: frost seeding forays and dinner theatre prep!

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].


  • Airport meetings: Robert from Ohio, Hi, there!
  • Spoiler alert: Wheat Pete is not always right, but you learn more when you’re wrong — so that’s a-okay! Which also means if you have comments, challenges, or want to discuss something you hear on the Word, please do.
  • Nature Nut Nick called in with an update on how warm and wet January was. Does this mean the rest of the year will be, too? It was warm, but 2016 was warmer. January 1998 and 2013 were also very wet, and 2020 was high but not too far out of the average range
  • #Plant20 has officially begun, as corn is going in in south Texas. Heck, some areas haven’t finished #harvest19.
  • Soybean price relative to corn and wheat is just not exciting right now. Some are saying it’s the earliest year ever for edible bean contracts being secured — it just goes to show that people are not happy with soybean price. Seed supply could prove to be an issue, too.
  • Where in the world will Wheat Pete be? Well, close to home, actually, as he gets set for a community theatre event February 29, March 1, 6, 7 with the Embro dinner theatre.
  • Finally, after weeks of promises, Pete has the answers and discussion on the row width topic! Perry is growing 15″ corn silage. In 2019, when he runs pusher unit, the tires run on the corn row, and those rows suffered. Likely, too wet in 2019, but he’s seen an impact in less wet years too. Would 20″ rows be better? What will you gain? You could also move the tires and still run 15″, but depends on tractor tires, too. Try it! You won’t lose yield on silage. What about grain gain? Well…
  • Grain yield benefits to row width? Some years 30″ to 20″ there is a yield gain, but depends on the season, as disease can become problematic, but less of an issue in corn, typically, but if we get tar spot in Ontario, that will be a larger factor. The narrow rows suggests 2-3% more yield on grain corn.
  • Should I just go to 30″ and save the trouble? You could go with both 20″ corn and then soybeans on same spacing, but planted in between last year’s corn rows, BUT that means same planter, which becomes an issue if you want to plant corn and soybean at the same time. Some farmers like to run the drill and get beans in earlier. Bingo! Planting date will trump row spacing every time.
  • Saskatchewan farmer on 9″ spacing in a high yield area wants to know if wider rows make sense. SeedMaster has 15″ single rank drill, and they’re saying no yield loss from the move from 10″ to 15″ rows….does that make sense? Depends on your limiting factor. Some places will even grow alfalfa in 30″ rows if moisture is limiting. Wow. In a high yield zone, you should have ample moisture, which means narrow rows can be a benefit. Other factors include leaf architecture of plants (upright vs. flat), and variety, for sure. It’s all about light interception, if moisture isn’t limiting.
  • Wider rows also decrease competitiveness, remember, and crop competition is your number one weed control tool
  • How much MAP (11-52-0 ) can you put with wheat or canola seed? Depends on sand vs. clay. Max is likely somewhere around 100 pounds/acre of product with wheat, and 50 pounds/acre with canola. Do some trials, increase slowly, account for soil type.
  • Pete always talks about frost seeding spring wheat — what about barley? YES! It’ll work with any cold tolerant spring cereal. Wheat, oats, barley all respond well, though wheat does better than oats, oats does better than barley.

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