Wheat Pete's Word, Mar 20: Tillering strategies, keeping soil covered, and help for sandy knolls


The first day of spring has brought with it a flood of calls and questions on managing the wheat crop as it wakes up — and host Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson couldn’t be happier.

In this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word, we have to start with some incredibly sad news out of Nebraska, where farmers and ranchers are facing catastrophic flooding after a huge rainfall and snow melt event. From there, we bring it on home to talk about managing spring runoff, protecting dry and droughty knolls, and on to encouraging this wheat crop to reach its full potential.

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]


  • The weekend brought snow, and rain, and more rain. Our hearts go out to Nebraska and other parts of the U.S. that are facing horrible floods, stranded cattle, bursting grain bins and washed out roads and bridges.
  • Ontario also saw tremendous rainfall over the weekend, where runoff cut gullies, and moved soil. Most of soil erosion and phosphorus movement happens November 1 to April. Stay focused on minimizing that runoff! Keep those corn stalks, use cover crops, leave the residue. Sometimes even that’s not enough, but the target is residue and keeping that soil in place, please.
  • Is liquid vs. dry manure better/worse for runoff? Well, after a rain event it’s all bad, it doesn’t matter. And remember that clear runoff can be carrying phosphorus.
  • We have to mention CBC’s recent program covering the California glyphosate case. Johnson says it was incredibly one-sided, and only really featured a lawyer out of California, and didn’t give our pest regulatory agency the light of day. If you feel, please write the ombudsperson, and demand better coverage of the issue. Respect our regulatory system!
  • Question out of Michigan: mid-October wheat, it’s all emerged, but uniformly thin — many want to rip it up. Kentucky says 70 stems per square foot for 100% yield. hey, it looks way better than we anticipated. It’s too early to rip it out! Even November wheat can make a decent crop, even if it’s thin. Uniformity is good. What to do now? Need a few tillers to get there, but if the population is there, it shouldn’t be a stretch, needs to hit the 3-leaf stage before tillering. Add N! Only 50 pounds of N on the frost as soon as is safe (not within 2 days of heavy rain), need nitrate and ammonium forms for uptake (urea plus ammonium sulphate, or 28%). Spring weather has to cooperate, for sure. But if you’re short N, you for sure won’t get there.
  • How do you decide when to take wheat out? It’s way too early. Do a stem count the day before you plant corn! You need 50 stems (stems, not plants) per square foot to keep it. Yes, not until we’re planting corn!
  • Could a late wheat crop benefit from dry dairy manure. Not enough N availability. Chicken or turkey litter would be a better option.
  • Does wheat need sugar? Um, not that we’ve heard, but do some trials
  • September wheat — first N application can be late April, put on 2/3 or 3/4 of intended N amount, come back at second node to apply the balance, based on potential. And don’t be afraid to up the N at that second application if the crop looks great and moisture is good.
  • Can you use protected N? Yes, but ESN can sometimes be tough to time. weather plays a huge role in it being too early or too lte
  • Cereal forage — can I plant my sandy knolls to cereal forage instead of corn, maybe wheat/barley/pea mix? Great idea, frost seed as early as you can! But  why peas? Spring rye is earlier, escape the drought better, and probably more tonnage. Spring triticale too, if you can find it. 60 pounds of cereal seed can get some great yield and quality if you feed it some N
  • Manipulator — registered here in Canada, but not in the U.S. Working on it, but there are established MRLs.
  • Harvesting 90 bushel wheat but only adding 70 pounds of MAP — unless your soil test is super high, you’re going to short the crop P eventually.

Other Episodes

Wheat Pete's Word (view all)Season 5 (2019) Episode 39

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