Wheat Pete's Word, Mar 22: Tillering, row widths, insect overwintering, and manure stewardship


Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson is set to ruffle some feathers this week as he makes the bold claim that it’s been too warm. Too warm!? Spring seems to be taking its time arriving this year, but Johnson explains what he means and why it might change the scouting schedule.

Also on this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word is a discussion on target seeds per square foot ranges for different wheat types, why manure on snow is still a no-go, if you should add goo to the poo, and more!

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].


  • Farm travels! The Amazon River is really flat for the most part, something like two inches of grade per mile
  • Tropical forest grows tremendous volumes of trees and vines and all sorts of species and diversity. It’s a tropical climate, those trees grow up, but then they die, they fall over, they rot away, and it’s so warm and so wet, that they just decompose really fast, and they never make much topsoil
  • Pete says it’s been too warm (!? Editor’s note: you should head to Ottawa. Not too warm.)
  • Have we really gained 17 days or growth?
  • In southern Ohio, in 70 years Ohio had gained 29 days of frost-free period
  • You just have to look at Ontario to see that because if you go down into Chatham-Kent and Essex County, they have had almost no snow the entire winter
  • Ottawa has had a bumper crop of snow in fact, just a tremendous amount of snow — almost a record or second or third highest on record, just tons of snow, lots of snowmobiling (Editor’s note: Barf)
  • London Ontario, had the darkest winter on record from December the fourth until January the eighth zero sunshine
  • The other reason it’s been too warm? Great article by University of Minnesota, it takes minus 30 Celsius to kill soybean aphids, and Eastern Ontario had a huge problem with soybean aphids last year
  • It takes minus 10 Celsius to kill alfalfa weevil. And so mostly where we grow alfalfa, we’ve had snow cover, it has not gotten to minus 10
  • Fertilizer time! Should you never stop applying fertilizer?
  • Wait just a minute! Once you’re over 35 parts per million of phosphorus, you become an environmental concern, we are putting phosphorus out in the tile.
  • Huge kudos to Dennis Pennington from Michigan State University. He’s pulling more and more data out of the Great Lakes YEN trials
  • Yield results aren’t just about the soil test, it’s about soil management, rotation, organic matter, and a whole lot of other things. We just cannot go down this road of more and more and more fertilizer and it’s not gonna make you more money
  • A quick Great Lakes YEN update: Ontario had over 50% of the entries, and highest yield averaging 124.6 bu/ac
  • Once again, we have to talk about manure on snow: we just cannot do that. It is economically bad, it’s environmentally bad
  • What about manure on wheat in the spring? But it’s way better on corn, because of uniform spread challenges
  • Cool technology coming along that helps take away the smell of manure!
  • Questions about composting rolling in again. Can we retain the nitrogen in the compost process? The answer is no.
  • What about products to put in the tank to keep that manure in the liquid stage, so it’s easier to spread, but if you don’t put a crust on the pit, you get more ammonium volatilization
  • Wheat and seeding rates question: winter wheat near Saskatoon, snowed on November the fifth and the snow melted immediately got enough moisture into that soil that, seed imbibed water, it will vernalize
  • Jody dug up 45 seeds in dry soil and said, Boy, I wonder if they’ll grow? He brought them in — only eight of the 45 grew. White paper towel is bleached, so that could be a factor. Use a brown paper towel instead
  • If those seeds imbibed, and then they dried out because that soil went dry, they can only survived for so long, that embryo is alive and it needs moisture, this could be bad news — 7 to 8 seeds viable per sq ft is still 80%+ production potential
  • Soft white spring at 50 seeds per square feet?! Seems high. 25 is plenty
  • You get 85% of your yield from the main stem and that’s why you need to up your seeding rate
  • Spring wheat doesn’t tiller, just not as much as winter wheat
  • Hybrid rye seeded 1.6 million seeds/acre, mid-September — do I use a PGR?
  • Chris from a Saskatchewan saying, Hey, Peter, how does row width play in to the YEN?
  • Jeremy Boychyn suggests they’re actually finding higher yields with lower seeding rates, 25 seeds or 30 seeds per square foot instead of 35 seats per square foot (on spring wheat)

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