Wheat Pete’s Word, July 8: Grassy wheat fields, ’88 weather, and working in teams

If you remember farming in 1988, this year may seem a little similar, at least for Ontario. That year, the drought broke in mid-July with a torrential downpour — are we in for something like that soon?

Well, we won’t know for sure for a few days yet, but this week’s Wheat Pete’s Word does tackle some of the current conditions, concerns, and top agronomy questions for mid-July. Host Peter Johnson outlines the yield differences in a dry year based on rotation, plus encourages some field mapping of grassy weeds in the winter wheat crop —why? Listen on!

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]


  • Some Ontario farms haven’t seen rain in a month.
  • There are a few pockets that have had nearly ideal rainfall and weather, so congrats to them.
  • Corn leaves are rolling up by mid-morning in some parts
  • 1988 weather? 2020 is like 1988, but in ’88 it was hotter, if you can believe it. But there’s less humidity this time around, but that is actually worse, in some ways. What happened? The drought broke in mid-July and broke with a bang. Most crops ended up being OK.
  • Harvest ’20 has begun! Winter barley at Sarnia hit 158 bu/ac, and at Lucan 160 bu/ac. These crops are already harvested, baled, and are going in to double crop beans. Straw prices are very regional—3.5 to 5 cents a pound. There’s more straw out there this year.
  • 120 vs 180 pound N trials. First trials are in and showing 92 vs 98 bushels per acre for the N treatments. For this farmer, 75 bushels per acre is more average. So definitely made more yield, but what is the economic decision?
  • Farm safety. Remember when dealing with livestock, especially bulls or rams, always have two people when in a pen with these animals.
  • Lights on our wagons! Use your turn signals, too. Think twice, act once.
  • Question time! Grass in wheat. Get out there and identify it, record where and what it is, so when you get back to sit down after scouting, you can put a plan together. Perennial grasses are hard to identify without a head. So go now! Brome, vs. cheatgrass, vs. bluegrass — all may need different herbicides and different timing. Bluegrass attracts armyworm, FYI.
  • Cereal rye is showing up, too. Rye has to cross pollinate, so seed set is usually not an issue. But too much cereal rye can downgrade the wheat to feed.
  • Seeing winter wheat crop with foxtail below the canopy. That means as soon as the wheat comes off, you will have to control and prevent seed-set.
  • More wild oats showing up, too. Make notes and build a plan.
  • It’s HOT. But it’s not actually as hot as you may think…unless we don’t have rain. The temperature isn’t necessarily a huge issue, it’s the lack of rain in conjunction with hot weather
  • Rotation wins again. In the data of long term rotation studies, corn/soy alternation will give you 22% yield increase vs continuous corn. Corn/soybean/wheat will give you a 33% yield gain in a dry year. AWESOME wheat.
  • Wheat is getting hit hardest by this heat, because it will shorten the grain fill period. Dr. Dave Hooker shared photos of just 26 days from head emergence to physiological maturity (when you would apply a pre-harvest product, which is likely not needed, read that here) on an eroded knoll. Normally, would have been 32 to 35 days.
  • For more on yield loss in hot, dry weather, go to this longer conversation on that.
  • Yield impact on corn really happens leading up to and after pollination, so we are approaching that critical period.
  • Temperature impact on edible beans pod blast? Over 32 degrees C, on average, but night time temps have a bigger impact, believe it or not.
  • Spraying for white mould? Maybe wait for pin beans, but don’t wait too long. And make sure you’ve got broad spectrum control.
  • With straw not worth that much, should you blow it back into the soil vs. baling? Field crop data doesn’t suggest a huge difference in yield vs. veggies which love more straw! Spread on the headlands and bale the rest? Why not! Won’t hurt.