Wheat Pete’s Word, Sept. 4: Broadcast vs. seed-placed fert, speckled stalks, and unavailable N

What are those black spots on the corn stalks? And if I’ve got to choose between two types of fertilizer — how do I know which is worth it?

This week’s Wheat Pete’s Word is full to the brim with questions and answers (just like host Peter Johnson likes!). You’ll hear about yield averages rolling in on wheat, what’s bugging the soybean crop, why “positionally unavailable nitrogen” can drag down yields, and, what to consider when making fertilizer decisions on rented land. Check it out below!

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].


  • It’s still incredibly dry in some areas of Ontario. Some farmers have had less than an inch of rain since June 20th, and were way wet before that. There’s three- and four-foot high corn, soybeans with no top pods, dying back. Our apologies.
  • Soybeans don’t “catch up,” they shorten the grain fill period. Edible beans are getting there — and that’s good land for winter wheat, wink wink nudge nudge.
  • We’re 100 crop heat units behind the long-term average based on a May 1 start date. We need that open fall, Mother Nature.
  • Early June planted corn is still a long way from done, y’all.
  • Spring wheat going 45-60 bushels an acre in northern Ontario. Not great at all. The protein is not really there either. 11 to 12 per cent protein only. What happened? A wet spring, then it turned dry. Positionally unavailable N is likely. It was there, but in the dry top of the soil profile.
  • The winter wheat, however, hit 126 bushels/acre for the same grower. Just a little earlier can make a big difference (and protein doesn’t matter as much, too!)
  • With 80% of yields reported so far (harvest is nearly done, so get those numbers in!), we are at a 77 bu/ac provincial average yield for Ontario. We won’t make 80, unfortunately. It’s about 9% below average.
  • Hard red winter wheat is in demand. It’s an opportunity, but make sure you’re getting a premium that makes it worth it. Visit GoCereals.ca to compare yield differences. It takes more energy to make protein vs starch, and that means lower yield for hard red winter. Pay attention and shop around.
  • Some are seeing black spots on corn stems. What is it? Likely, the pollen dropped off tassel, but didn’t hit the silk, and get in between the leaf sheaf and stalk. Fungi attack it and you get spots. They won’t hurt yield, and are more common where there was rain.
  • Deep southwest of Ontario has sudden death syndrome hitting soybean fields hard. Dig up plants! Send in soil sample — sudden death is often related to soybean cyst nematode. You need to know, so you can manage for it.
  • A grower under-seeded new hay in oat and pea crop on July 27, and wants to know when to harvest to protect the new seedling out (alfalfa)? May and early June would have been OK for seeding, but, there may not be enough time to get that alfalfa up and growing enough. Get that pea/oat crop off! Alfalfa needs to build a crown to survive the winter.
  • Spring soil tests vs. fall: Great idea! Every grower needs a current soil test on every acre (that doesn’t mean every acre every year). Wheat acres – full stop, start there. 25 tonnes/acre of dry beef manure, only an inch of rain. Increase in potash levels for sure. Sample but be sure to get under the manure.
  • Killing alfalfa ahead of winter wheat. Yes, burn it down with glyphosate (don’t tank mix!), leave it 4-7 days, then cut it.
  • MESZ vs MAP: MESZ has come down in price (MESZ is MAP plus zinc and sulphur, only $25/tonne more now, a caller says). Should I use that instead of MAP? Long term, it should build the sulphur supply, yes, and zinc is needed by the crop, certainly, but trials suggest no yield benefit to the added zinc. On a wheat crop, just not necessarily worthwhile.
  • Zinc plus liquid fertilizer? Just haven’t seen a response with fall-applied, but corn is a different story. Do some plots!
  • MAP seed-placed (50 pounds) vs broadcast (100 pounds) on rented land with low fertility, what is better? Tough spot. You need four times the amount broadcast to equal same amount seed placed, so the seed-placed makes more sense BUT you’re going to run short on phosphorus longer term. No easy answer on rented ground.
  • How early can I plant winter wheat? Check out this Wheat School!
  • Broadcast winter wheat into soybeans at leaf drop or wait until the soybeans come off? Drilled wheat usually does just as well, even though it goes in later.