Wheat College goes online

Due to social distancing measures, this year’s event will take place as a webinar

By Trista Crossley

Like many other institutions, the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization (AMMO) is pivoting to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year’s Wheat College will feature Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson, who is the resident agronomist with Real Agriculture where he posts a weekly podcast, “Wheat Pete’s Word.” Growers will be able to log into a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, June 16, from 9-10:30 a.m., to hear Johnson speak.

Johnson spent 30 years as the Ontario Cereal Specialist and loves to talk anything agriculture, especially wheat. He operates a small farm near Lucan, Ontario, where he constantly tries out new production ideas and where the “rubber hits the road.” He is enthusiastic and passionate about agriculture and loves to be challenged by growers. He is also a regular on “Agronomy Monday” on Real Ag radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 147.

Traditionally, AMMO’s summer Wheat College is known for its mix of classroom and hands-on presentations.

“We are doing some last-minute changes based on meeting requirements, but we are still looking to provide a worthwhile education opportunity to our interested members,” said Lori Williams, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) outreach coordinator. “Despite having to move Wheat College online, growers will still have the opportunity to engage with Peter and ask questions.”

Johnson’s presentation will focus on managing wheat for high yields. He explained that in dryer climates, growers generally focus solely on water availability as the limiting yield factor without exploring other things they might do to increase their yields. He said he gets frustrated when growers apply their inputs all up front.

“That doesn’t work to me,” he said. “So what we are going to do is we will start from the basics and ask where does wheat yield potential come from? We will look at four different components to wheat yield, so if we are super dry, how do we manage around those four components to give ourselves management opportunities, limiting input costs if we don’t get rainfall and maximizing yield if we do get rainfall. Rather than throwing everything at it right out of the gate, let’s find other options.”

The four yield components Johnson will discuss are the number of heads per square meter; the size of the head; the number of grains per floret; and the weight of the grain.

“That is one difference in wheat that makes a huge impact and gives growers a massive opportunity to manage wheat that you don’t get in almost any other crop,” Johnson said, referring to the fact that growers can vary the number of kernels per floret. “I get excited about wheat. Wheat is incredibly responsive to management.”

Because Johnson lives in Ontario, Canada, he has been talking to several Eastern Washington wheat growers to get a better understanding of the region’s growing conditions. He admits that he isn’t an “absolute expert” in growing wheat in Washington state, but explains that he understands how the grain works, and he has worked with growers in Australia.

“It doesn’t matter if the wheat is in a dry climate with 10 inches of rainfall or wheat in southwest Ontario where total rainfall over the whole year is 35 inches. Wheat is still wheat. You still need those four factors to give you yield. That doesn’t change,” he said.

Growers interested in participating in Wheat College need to email Williams at lori@wawg.org to register no later than June 15. Williams will email them back with a meeting link. While WAWG membership is appreciated, growers don’t need to be members in order to participate in the online webinar. At the conclusion of the event, a Blackstone Grill will be given away to one lucky participant. Additional items, sponsored by Corteva Agriscience and WAWG, will also be given away.

Thank you to our 2020 AMMO sponsors

The Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization would like to thank their 2020 sponsors for making these workshops possible.

AgLink Inc.

Almota Elevator Company

Corteva Agriscience

Hatley/Cobb Farmland Management

HighLine Grain Growers

JW & Associates PLLC

Northwest Farm Credit Services

Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative

Pomeroy Grain Growers

ProPartners Financial

Ritzville Warehouse Co.

Scott’s Tire Service

Syngenta

The McGregor Company

Tri-Cities Grain LLC

Tri-State Seed Co.

Washington Grain Commission

Wheatland Bank

Wilbur-Ellis Co.