Wheat Pete’s Word, May 1: Patience in wet conditions, emergency hay, and lovely frost-seeded cereals

Frost seeded oats, spring 2019. Nick Stokman, farmer

Alert! Alert! Alert! It’s May — time to panic! Wait, no, not yet. Yes, weather conditions in both eastern and western Canada have been less than ideal for different reasons, but  while farmers are absolutely itching to get rolling in the field, it’s not late…yet.

That said, Wheat Pete’s Word host Peter Johnson knows that farmers are going to be impatient, especially with the forecast staying cool and wet. While we wait for soil to dry out, there’s plenty of other things to work out — like how you’re going to fill-in the hay crop, weed control ahead of alternatives to winter wheat, and making more straw.

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].


  • Oh, May Day! Floods in eastern Ontario, it’s too wet and cool— planting delays are stressful.
  • Meanwhile, those annual and winter annual weeds are growing — ragweed, and even pigweed (See more in this Corn School).
  • Cold! Last weekend/beginning of this, Western Canada got up to a foot of snow and -10 overnight temps. Now, that’s cold
  • Here in Ontario, the flip to May puts the pressure on, big time. Whoa, slow down — May 1 isn’t late …yet. Spring wheat has been planted the 28th of May and made 80 bushels/ac, because the rest of the year was nice. June planted corn can still make 200 bushels.
  • Wait for those fit soil conditions for now. Even with those extra acres that will need to be seeded.
  • Frost-seeded cereals look good (see feature image!) Oats went in last few days of March and they look incredible.
  • Is wheat OK? Durum and spring wheat emerging at temps that hit -8 and -9. It is likely OK, as the growing point is still below ground and protected. The leaves will die, but that’s OK, the plant will do well with the moisture.
  • But lentils, canola, and peas — an exposed growing point is d-e-a-d.
  • Soil temps: if it’s less than 10 degrees C do you roll? When you get into May, and the soil is fit (not making mud balls, etc.), and soil temp is a little cool, you plant because time is ticking. 5 is fine. Drive on.
  • Cold rain immediately after planting is more detrimental than cold soil. That cold drink of water is what hurts the seed.
  • Across Ontario, hay fields are in tough shape, there’s even tile-run alfalfa. In many fields even the grasses may have died in some areas of eastern Ontario. What do you do? Make more hay! If there is grass, you feed that grass nitrogen and a little S. Want more legumes? Broadcast red clover, should be there for second cut and there next year. Annual or perennial ryegrass (but annual could be a weed species, so maybe perennial) broadcast in, or try oats and peas and wrap it. You won’t get a second cut, though. Sorghum sudangrass is a warm season, can’t go in until late May early June. Maybe take a first cut of hay, take it out and plant sudangrass, if possible. Build that supply!
  • Wheat in Quebec: dig it up, look for new white growth, give it a little time. November 28th planted, went back April 30, and it looks really good at emergence. Be patient.
  • Other wheat looks like it’s going backwards, but it’s just not coming on.
  • Frost heave impact on wheat — will it make it? The cool, wet weather may have worked out for it, allowing it to survive. Evaluate the root system and see if  it has enough to turn out. Can planting deeper solve that? Well, do not move to shallower seeding into the fall season, please
  • Straw! At auction, 3x3x7 bale went for $99/bale! 20 cents a pound. Wow.
  • Manipulator on growth stage 31, will it impact straw yield? Not really, but cut lower, and it should be thicker stemmed. Fungicides in the data set we have do bring more straw yield (about 300 pounds more an acre).
  • Do we need to kill winter wheat ahead of corn? It’s the weeds you have to worry about. Tillage might only give you 80% control
  • Red clover under wheat going into IP beans, how do you kill it? Right now, it’s easy to kill, but there are hard seeds that will germinate later. High risk in an IP or dry bean crop. Stick with Roundup Ready or Xtend soybeans instead.


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