Wheat Pete's Word, April 1: Nitrogen losses explained, the Word time warp, and staying social


We’re glad to see that most people went easy on the April Fools jokes, as it seems that life right now is one big prank — what with COVID-19 tanking the economy, taking lives, and adding so much uncertainty to the economy.

But, dear friends, all is not awful, and there’s still a crop to plant, as Mother Nature doesn’t give two hoots about a virus, when there’s spring to, well, spring.

On this week’s edition of Wheat Pete’s Word, host Peter Johnson breaks down the most likely ways you’ll lose nitrogen right now and early in the season, plus the ins and outs of when to use treated N products, just to get rolling. Listen now or download for later!

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].


  • Stay social! But stay distanced. This COVID-19 pandemic is scary and stressful, but physical distancing IS working. We need to keep it up. But we also need to stay in touch with our friends, neighbours, and family. Pick up the phone, learn to video chat, text, or join social media. Stay in touch.
  • Flour shelves at the grocery store are empty. People have finally realized the true value of wheat and how amazing it is. Wheat Pete can now retire in peace (many years from now).
  • Remember: Wheat Pete lives in a pretty southern clime by Canadian standards. The Word is broadcast across Canada, the U.S., and around the world. Keep that in mind when you hear him give advice on nitrogen on wheat, for example. Which brings us to…
  • No N on snow! When you’re listening to the Word, add a week or two or three depending on where you farm.
  • How familiar are you with all the ways to lose nitrogen? Let me count the ways….volatilization, denitrification, and leaching.
  • Knowing how N is lost then informs the answers to this week’s questions about N — and, oh boy, they are numerous.
  • Dry ground, added liquid N, warm wind, tonnes of rain. Losses? Well, if the soil were dry, the rain would have moved the urea into the soil and limiting volatilization losses (to the air).
  • You need saturated soil for quite some time to lose N to denitrification
  • Is ESN on the surface a bad idea? Work out of Manitoba suggests that ESN will float and is prone to off-site movement. Incorporate it, if you’re using it surface applied.
  • Protected N questions: surface applied, is Agrotain or some other product worth it? Well, on warm soil, that N can be at risk, but early in the year, when temps are cool to cold, it’s not likely worth the cost.
  • BUT if you’re no-tilling in corn on May 10 and the soil is warm, the losses could be huge for broadcast urea. Definitely worth protecting surface-applied N.
  • Denitrification can be prevented with some products, too. Again, not always worth the cost, and it needs the right situation. For example, using an inhibitor with 28%, dribble-banded on corn saw more loss! But wheat on heavy clay, though, in Niagara region and the soil stays wet, wet, wet, it’s well worth it.
  • Is urea and manure a no-go? If we’re talking spring wheat, with incorporated manure, you can put the urea on, because contact between manure and urea is low. But on winter wheat, remember that manure is only worth a third to a half the N value vs. corn if manure applied on corn. Manure has lots of urease enzyme and can blow off so much N!

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