Wheat Pete’s Word, Nov 13: Snow, test weight and temperature, yield monitor data, and farm stress

No one wants to see crop under snow, especially when that crop is either a) not really ready to harvest or b) most of your acres. Western Canada has been hard hit by snow cover this fall, and it seems the early start to winter now extends to most of Ontario, too.

The recent snowfall and cold temps are causing issues with grain drying, says Peter Johnson, host of Wheat Pete’s Word, and in this week’s episode he explains why both the temperature of the corn flowing in to the dryer and the air temp being drawn in to cool it could change test weight (and not for the better). Also in this week’s Word, a discussion on oat lodging, why the combine yield monitor is not to be taken as gospel, and why it’s time to phone a friend.

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].


  • Snow and stress. Most of Ontario farmers have now joined the ranks of snowed-out farmers in Western Canada. We need to accept that stress is a part of the business, but we don’t need to accept being alone in this. Pick up the phone, go for coffee, check in on your neighbour. We need to take care of each other.
  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail…to get registered for the Southwest Ag Conference happening in early January. Get signed up! You can always roll your registration ahead a year if you end up being in the field combining.
  • Winter wheat acres in Ontario hit one million! Well, we’re pretty sure it’s about one million acres, give or take. And it looks okay in some areas, but not even emerged in many areas, but hey, wheat doesn’t mind snow. Wet feet are another story. So frozen is okay. Snow is okay. Flooded out and swampy is not okay.
  • 3% of the Ontario wheat crop is soft white winter wheat, and about 75,000 tonnes of production, roughly. Do you grow it? You could be a pretty major player in that market. Neat.
  • Combing through performance data and looking at lodging difference (managed vs. not, which means one to two fungicide passes vs not). The oats stood so much better in managed trials! Check out GoCereals.ca, now with tables to compare. The difference is staggering.
  • Some plot results: 230 bushel/acre for late May planted corn. But many farmers report they are off 15 bushels, and 30, 40, and 50 bushels/acre in areas that got early frost. The crop planted late and in tough still pulled through where the frost stayed away.
  • This week in the corn crop: drying, drying, drying. Test weight can be improved if done right. Check out the video here.
  • In some situations, the test weight is going down or staying the same. What gives? Is it the colder air being fed into the dryer? Temperature of the corn is what matters more (which is related to air temp, too). If trying to dry corn at 15 degrees C vs 0 degrees C, the more swelling that happens to warm it up to drying temp. With immature, cold, higher moisture corn, it has to get hotter to chase that moisture out. Batch dryers have a slight advantage, here. It’s all down to temperature differential of original corn and the cold air temp being used in the cooling towers.
  • Corn dries in the field, yes. Brown-layered corn in some cases is actually gaining moisture. What gives? Corn is being combined for feed, then when the farmer goes back five to seven days later, and instead of 38% it’s going UP in moisture. This happened in 1992 in very immature corn. Is the tip of the kernel not packed in with as much hard starch and is more sugar…and is it taking on water? Could be. It’s a hypothesis. Over time, it will dry. But it takes time, possibly all winter.
  • How cold is too cold to combine through snow? Depends on the combine. For some, it’s -5 to -7 at the coldest. Do you have a heated shop? Because, oh my, you’re going to need to thaw out that equipment.
  • Data, data, data: Yield monitor data vs. grain buggy data comparison. One person said the combine monitor ranged from 13% BELOW to 19% above the weight in the wagon. The combine monitor is calibrated, right? Well, yes, and yield monitors give you valuable data, but you have to understand you can’t take it as gospel, because it’s an impact sensor, which doesn’t account for waxiness, test weight, and even the direction of the corn hitting the sensor.
  • Is it too late to plant wheat or to spray? Well, if the snow goes, there could still be a window but most of the province has winterized already.

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