Wheat Pete's Word, March 18: Corn row syndrome, dry soil in March, and stocking up ahead of planting


There’s no denying that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a huge impact on our daily lives. But even among the negativity and scary unknowns, there is some good — like maple trees pushing out buds and soil warming up and drying out in southern Ontario.

In this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word, host Peter Johnson has top tips on planning for a prolonged “social distancing” planting season, dos and don’ts for early N applications, and stresses the importance of fall weed control. Of course, he’s got an answer to all the questions left on the phone line and via Twitter, too.

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].


  • COVID-19 has hit North America, and the impact has been incredible. Stay calm. We are going to have more cases, we need to stay home, and ride this out, but take it seriously, please.
  • Lots is still going on — check out online concerts, check out RealAgriculture.com past videos and podcasts, and hey, video calling exists now, so keep in touch.
  • You know it’s serious went politicians of all colours agree on what we should be doing.
  • What do you do as a farmer? Stay home. Get the seed, chemicals (that you can store properly and safely), and fertilizer —as much as you can of what you’ll need, and store it.
  • There’s thawed, dry soil in Ontario on March 16! One farmer was putting N on the wheat crop at 5 in the afternoon, with no frost left. Duals on the tractor pulling a spreader and not leaving a mark. Wowzers!
  • In Lambton County, one farmer ran on the frost in the morning and got all the clover seed on in five days. Good job.
  • Get out there and frost seed! As stressful as it is to try new things, Wheat Pete promises says it’s going to be OK. If nothing else, it’ll be the same for yield, and it frees up time at seeding/planting.
  • Bittercress and groundsel are in flower in some of those warmer, southern regions in Ontario. It’s a great reminder to control winter annuals in the fall, because they’re going to do their damage this spring. Dandelion, fleabane, and others really steal yield and are hard to kill in the spring.
  • Rhubarb is starting to poke through! And the maple trees are flowering in Nature Nut Nick’s back yard (photo above).
  • When asking questions about N on wheat and other crops: Send photos, but send close ups, please.
  • Corn row syndrome on wheat (see feature photo above), in this case it’s actually from soybean rows, but same factors at play. Low-test soils likely, and you can see were the band of P ran.
  • Early N: cereal rye out there and want to put on some early N because I want big forage yield! Same for triticale. Good. We love big crops. It all depends on how many tillers you have already. Do you split app N? On a forage crop that’s likely less critical, but if you have the capability, then go right ahead and split it as you may limit your losses if the weather turns warm and wet.
  • 25R34 with six tillers per plant (!): how much N and when? When it comes to varietal differences, make sure you check out each variety’s lodging risk. Check out this story about a plant growth regulator trial.
  • Even with growth regulators, splitting N has a huge impact on wheat yield and lodging risk.
  • Potash does not help the wheat crop stand. Build your soil test, but for total yield reasons, not for standability.
  • Early seeded winter wheat at the lowest seeding rate yields best and stands best! Ammonium sulphate plus 28%? No, 28% is high in salt, and it may inhibit ammonium sulphate dissolving without higher water volume.
  • Volunteer wheat and resistant fleabane will not be controlled with tillage — spray it first, but select for herbicides you know will work ahead of corn.
  • Taking alfalfa from hay to pasture — orchard grass and white clover and fertilizer!

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