Wheat School: Learning from 148 bu/ac YEN grower Jeff Cook

Fine-tuning nitrogen and managing lodging are two key strategies that helped earn London, Ont., wheat grower Jeff Cook a third place finish in the 2021 Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) overall yield category.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Wheat School, Cook speaks with agronomist Peter Johnson and shares how he grew 148.6 bu/ac to earn the bronze award in the pilot year for the Great Lakes YEN.

Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Michigan Wheat Program, Michigan State University, and the University of Guelph, launched the YEN project to help farmers and the industry build insights and knowledge about practices and other factors impacting yield. In its inaugural year, it focused solely on winter wheat, working with 40 farmers from Ontario and Michigan, U.S., to determine the difference in their actual and potential yields.

In the video, Cook breaks down the three-pass split nitrogen strategy he used at his family’s Mapleview Farms to drive yield. He also shares how he managed lodging risk in wheat planted into a field coming out of green beans. When it comes to unlocking higher wheat yields, Cook says “higher nitrogen rates are part of the puzzle, but managing lodging is a big concern.” (Story continues after the video.)

One of Cook’s metrics that stands out for Johnson is the number of wheat heads — measured at 1,004 heads per square metre. Johnson says he would expect any crop with more than 750 heads/m2 to go flat but the field stood firm, says Cook.

Cook also discusses seeding rate as well as what he learned from the huge amount of management data the YEN program provides growers. Next year, Cook will take aim at producing a higher percentage of his yield potential, which was pegged at 242 bu/ac in 2021. One thing he will add to his arsenal is higher resolution soil sampling to help address field variability.

“You can always do better. That’s the fun part,” he says.

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