Wheat Pete's Word, March 25: Isolation, market moves, and your fertilizer questions answered


If there’s one thing farmers should understand, it’s biosecurity — and yet, somehow there are many who aren’t taking the physical distancing protocol seriously. Wheat Pete, for one, is having none of it.

Of course, the host of Wheat Pete’s Word, Peter Johnson, only spend a little bit of time on that topic for this week’s episode, before it’s time to move on to some opportunities to lock in some profits on the grain side. He then switches gears and gets right into the thick of nitrogen and phosphorus management on wheat. Listen on!

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 is real, and we must take this virus seriously. Isolation is the answer. This is biosecurity 101, farmers. We can do this.
  • Stay in touch — but keep your distance, and we mean it. The better we are at this now, the sooner we can get past this. It’s weighing on our minds, for sure. Take care of yourself, too.
  • The market is moving higher. In Ontario, we’re seeing $12 soys, almost $7.50 wheat — excellent opportunities to price some crop. If that’s the worst you do, that’s not so bad. Reward the market. Now might be a good time to make a sale.
  • Frost seeded cereals are germinating! The roots are just starting to pop out of the kernels. Hey, cereals don’t mind cool soil and cool weather. It could be weeks before much more happens with a wet forecast ahead, so imagine the jump these cereals will have.
  • Plant 19 is finally wrapping up, and the turn out has been mixed. For some corn left out, it worked out well, but others had quite high losses to lodging and critters.
  • Some wheat field headlands are in very tough shape this spring. It’s a compaction issue. Should we be placing tile much closer on the headlands? Possibly. Late seeded wheat suffering the most on those headlands.
  • Livestock in rotation (with manure at least) is definitely top of mind for some producers, but it’s not always as easy as it seems. But on that note…
  • Northern Pennsylvania farmer called in. He stopped dairying 2012 and is now a grain farmer. His soybean and corn crops do well, but he’s wondering what all those years of manure can give to the wheat crop, with soil organic matter at 4 to 5 per cent. Guess what? If you plan on mining that N/OM/manure history, you’ll negate all the benefits inside of 10 years. Conserve that organic matter, don’t mine it! Plus, the OM only releases N if the soil biology is active and that means you need warm soil, too. Wheat needs N too early to depend on the soil OM to provide it. It needs it in late April/early May. A corn crop demands N throughout the summer, and the soil will provide at least some of that need.
  • To that end, the same farmer planted wheat Sept 11, 2019, which is very early so he pulled the seeding rate back to 850,000 seeds per acre. On that wheat he has 5 to 9 tillers right now. Wheat seeded a week later has 2-4 tillers (with a higher seeding rate).
  • Similar here in Ontario, at Woodstock: September 10th seeded as 9+ tillers, Sept. 23 has five tillers; Sept. 30th seeded has only has two; and by Oct. 8th seeded, there is zero to one tiller.
  • This means N rate should be different — 60 pounds of N, on highly tillered wheat I wouldn’t have done. I would hold off on any more. Do some plots!
  • Wheat after alfalfa question: On March 6, applied liquid manure. How much more N do I put on, given it’s coming out of alfalfa? Again, the N from the terminated alfalfa stand still takes time to mineralize. Liquid manure N isn’t readily available for the wheat crop either, because the wheat needs it so early. It will become available later, however, so make sure you’re pushing the crop early.
  • H2Ohio program: farmers getting paid to include a small grain in rotation. Oh, baby, could we do that here?!
  • Dang it, grow shorter-season beans to make sure you’re getting the wheat in on time.
  • Thomas, asking about applying urea with an airflow spreader. You’d be amazed how much gumming up will happen.
  • Phos on wheat in the spring? For this situation, probably not going to do much. Phos is needed for early growth. It needs to be on before the crop or with the seed, full stop.

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