Wheat Pete’s Word, May 15: Spring stover baling, starter fertilizer bumps, leaf burn risk, and stems per foot of row

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Planting is rolling on, even if it is verrrry slowly for parts of Ontario. Meanwhile, crops are emerging well in many parts of the Prairies.

This week’s Wheat Pete’s Word tackles some timely topics, such as creative ways to apply N to hungry wheat, why starter fertilizer is almost always worth it on corn, and two perhaps surprising additional costs to spring stover baling.

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].


  • A little sunshine decided to show up in much of Ontario this week. Planting progress is still very, very slow. Just seems to be rain every few days. We’ll see what the week brings.
  • No matter what, this is going to be a push to plant — and when we hurry, accidents happen, some big, some small. Don’t let fatigue cause an accident. Take a nap when you can!
  • The soybean markets are in a tailspin…but corn is edging a little higher. Maybe more corn acres is a good idea for more than just your soil? Lock in a decent price, and drive on. The market is asking for it, but lock it in.
  • Frost seeding in less common areas: start small. In B.C., frost seeded in early April and it’s looking good!
  • Here in Ontario, lots of oats still in the bag, so frost seeding is one of the only things growing
  • More aerial N put on in Ontario than ever before because of the wet conditions.
  • Wheat is still growing and sure does need it.
  • It’s mid-May, do I still put full N on wheat, if I’m worried about leaf burn? 120 pounds to 90 pounds of N, for example, you do reduce the burn potential, but you hit yield potential worse by shorting the crop N.
  • Corn row syndrome in wheat because of sulphur? Probably more about phosphorus.
  • Please pay attention to S deficiency risk in wheat, because of cool soil (temps slow release from soil). Those using ammonium thiosulphate…could mean there isn’t enough S (because of the elemental sulphur component).
  • Tile run oats even with S. Why is the N uptake so slow? Or has it been? Is the N lost? N is lost in several ways, but losses so far should be minimal. N moves easily with water, as plants take up water it keeps getting N. Plants aren’t actively taking up water because of slow growth. Warm weather will help so many things.
  • Tillers in the wheat crop — just no as many on the mid-October wheat that we want. One or two tillers per plant, sure, but you need stems! 60 per square foot for full yield potential. We can make up some potential with fertility, but yield may be capped by fewer plants.
  • Planting corn: does the 2×2 advantage on high soil test P and K levels? You might be surprised to learn just how many bushels you can add with a starter fertilizer (yes, even potash!). Absolutely, use that starter band, unless time is of the absolute essence in this late year. Drive on.
  • Corn stover for moolah — is spring baling worth it? Most of the K is leached out by the spring. For nutrients, there’s less than $7/tonne of nutrients, but organic matter is a different story — there’s still plenty of that there. What’s the value to you, of the OM, and what’s the risk of compaction of baling it off now?
  • Shavings vs. straw: organic matter equivalent, shavings just take a little longer to break down.
  • And the value of straw? Get over it! Western loads are rolling in and you can get it delivered to the yard for $0.14/lb.

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