Wheat Pete's Word, Mar 24: Organic matter under cover crops, snow mold, and stale seed beds


Yes, #plant21 is happening! Ontario farmers are getting in the field planting sugar beets, alfalfa, spring cereals, and even a bit of soybean prep is happening.

In this episode of Wheat Pete’s Word, host Peter Johnson is talking snow mold in winter wheat, frost seeding, and spongy soils. Listen on for answers to so many of your 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].


  • Questions about the new voicemail system… Pete runs you through it
  • Calling on the usual suspects for working ground and putting soybeans in a stale seedbed
  • Maybe don’t listen to other countries’ forecasts? Or maybe do, for empathy’s sake. 400 mm in Australia. Texas was frozen out and the citrus industry got slammed
  • It takes 10 inches of snow to make 1 inch of water
  • Snow mold in the winter wheat crop; so far nobody will take a field out because of it. Pete’s astounded by how many fields had a “baseball sized spot.” It’s rarely dead, but dig the plants up and if the stem is mushy, it’s a goner. Fun fact: in turfgrass, snow mold is also called “fairy ring”
  • When growers installed tile, and the tile isn’t running, you know it’s dry. But that’s also an opportunity to get some things done
  • Frost seeding. A friend of Pete’s kept going in some dry soil
  • Go out for a walk!
  • Less organic matter to 2 metres depth with a cover crop, versus without a cover crop? Look at total organic matter and the value of organic matter in that A horizon versus down in the B and C horizons. After the cover crop, the corn performed poorly?
  • Wheat! Nitrogen! Manure! Big Twitter discussion. Ontario’s a big province, and it’s not just Ontario, it’s all of Canada that has this discussion. When are you not frozen? Even if you find frozen soil at 5 inches, the water can’t move through that frozen zone. In order to apply nitrogen and not get that surface runoff, the water has to penetrate the soil.
  • What is green-up? The wheat looks green but there aren’t any new leaves and there’s maybe only 1cm of new, white root growth. True green-up isn’t until you see that new green growth
  • Nitrogen timing. Early nitrogen on small wheat (late planted with no tillers). Rarely is there a huge advantage, but we’re doing it because we want to give that crop every benefit we can. N demand is low. Why 50 lb? Why not 30 lb? You need just enough N to go into solution and be taken up by those little roots
  • On bigger wheat: what is the risk? The risk is loss. Warm, wet weather leads to denitrification.
  • Manure. It’s different because it’s all about soil conditions and compaction. Dry soil, get it done.
  • Nitrogen on forage. Stimulate growth!
  • Sulphur. Ammonium thiosulphate versus ammonium sulphate. A 20 lb target… there’s zero research behind needing 30 lb of sulphur. Some soils get enough out of the soil. Cost? Elementals? Soil temperature, OM, soil moisture (don’t forget the microbiological oxidation of it!) Take one to six months for elemental sulphur to become available.

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