Wheat Pete’s Word, Jan 8: A corn toxin alert, tiles vs. earthworms, temperature updates, and a final look at 2019

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

It’s a new year, and we’re back with the first Wheat Pete’s Word of the decade! Peter Johnson, host of Wheat Pete’s Word, says that although we are only eight days in, 2020 is already roaring ahead steadily. The mantra for 2020 according to Wheat Pete is “perfect vision.” If we can see clearly, we’ll have the perfect year. (We’ll have to hold Pete to that one).

In this week’s episode, Wheat Pete has some updates on the 2019 crop — including some corn concerns — and he takes a dive into facts and fallacies, and how we can tell them apart.

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].


  • Be sure to register for Cereal Smart, Wheat Pete will be there! Call 1-877-424-1300 to do so.
  • Everyone said what an awful year 2019 was, and I get that, but let’s go back and take a look…
    • The 21-year average temperature annually was 8.8 degrees C. 2019? 8.3 degrees C. That’s a six per cent drop from the average. This doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does show that although it was a little cooler than normal, there were actually six other years in those 21 years that were cooler than 2019. If you go back to 2014, that year didn’t even make 7 degrees C. So certainly not a really hot year, but nearly as cold of a year in 2019 as we may have thought.
    • Average precipitation over those 21 years is 819 mm, and in 2019 it was 933 mm. That’s a 14 per cent increase! It was a pretty wet year.
    • As far as yield goes…Many growers are telling me that gosh, there’s 10 bu/ac more soybeans there than I ever thought I’d get! I planted on the 15th or 20th of June, for crying out loud. So far, to date, the average corn yield in Ontario is 169 bu/ac. That’s with three quarters of the yields reported. The 10-year average is 178 bu/ac. Yup, we’re off by about 9 bu/ac. That’s 95 per cent of our 10-year average. Which given the year we had, that’s a pretty solid number.
    • Soybeans were a Cinderella story this year. They seemed to be able just to keep cranking out the yield. They are an amazingly resilient crop. Average yield (with 94 per cent of the average yields reported) at 45 bu/ac and the 10 year average at 47 bu/ac. That’s 96 per cent of average. Again, they are off 4 per cent, but man oh man, a lot of those soybeans got planted in the last half of June!
  • Looking at what’s going on across the globe, the wildfires in Australia, the challenges in the Middle East, etc; we are so fortunate here. We maybe didn’t have average yields, but we struggled through 2019. There is still some harvesting going on, still some corn out there at 37 per cent moisture, so yes, life isn’t all good, but we are overall pretty fortunate.
  • Meanwhile, there is the other side of the coin, and we talk about climate change, but Donald, north of Simcoe, up in the highlands of Ontario, has 240 bu/ac corn at 24 per cent moisture. 30 years ago, you wouldn’t have dreamed of growing corn that far north. Here we are today at 240-bushel corn.
  • Heads up! Late silage corn, immature corn in November, within a week, two aborted cows. Test came back, some DON (giberella) and zearalenone, but also T2, but none of the levels alone were a concern. It’s a witch’s brew of toxins. It’s the mix that becomes toxic. So beware, and get the binders right.
  • @BotanyGeek was asked, why is food now less nutritious? He said, nope, that’s not true, and suddenly wasn’t asked to weigh in on the news anymore. Really have to separate fact from fiction.
  • Can earthworms replace tile drainage? Oh, boy. Yes, earthworms are great for the soil, but tile drainage is about water table management, and worms can’t replace it.
  • White corn question: 3000 heat unit area, are there hybrid options? This is food-grade corn (like white wheat). Colour matters and use the full colour. It’s a nice premium, but the shortest heat unit you can get is 113 days (3500 heat unit), so not going to make it. And will they work in Ontario? Also prone to kernel red streak here, and that’s a problem.
  • Yield drag soft red vs. hard red? Can we overcome it? There will almost always be a yield drag to hard red wheat because it is higher in protein. Protein takes energy, and that energy comes from yield development. We’re talking about 6% yield drag.

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