Success is driving expansion of the wheat yield enhancement network (YEN)

Michigan State wheat systems specialist Dennis Pennington.

Highly engaged wheat growers wanting to learn how to grow better wheat are driving expansion of the Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network (YEN).

Coordinated by the Grain Farmers of Ontario, Michigan State University, Michigan Wheat Program, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the University of Guelph, the Great Lakes YEN project helps farmers learn from each other about new ways to improve winter wheat yields.

“It’s been a huge undertaking in terms of labour to put everything together that has to be done for all the data collection and the reports that go back to growers, but the amount of information that we’re generating is phenomenal,” reports Michigan State wheat systems specialist, Dennis Pennington.

At the Ontario Agricultural Conference last week, Pennington noted that the Great Lakes YEN kicked off in 2021 with 43 growers before expanding in 2022 with 98 growers completing the project. The organizers are expecting the program to attract 150 growers for 2023 as the January 27 enrolment deadline approaches.

In the 2022 competition, Jeffery Krohn, from Elkton, Michigan won both the yield and per cent of potential yield categories with 165.92 bu/ac while achieving 87.97 per cent of potential. Andy Timmermans from Stratford, Ont., finished second in both categories with 150.19 bu/ac and 79.07 per cent yield potential.

In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Pennington says growers are gaining new insights every year they participate in the program. In 2021, much of the learning focused on how the number of wheat heads per square metre impacted yield; in 2022, many insights were drawn from how length of the grain fill period and corresponding weather can impact the crop. (Story continues after the video.)

“That’s what’s exciting about this whole project,” says Pennington. “No two years is alike; we don’t have the same weather conditions. And growers are trying to figure out what are the best options for them to maximize the yield potential given the conditions that they have.”

One crop measurement that has consistently indicated crop success is total biomass. Pennington notes that two years of YEN data indicates that yield and biomass have a high correlation. “When biomass goes up, yield goes up,” he adds. Other key areas of focus include nitrogen rates and application, fungicides, and micronutrient deficiencies.

Pennington says enthusiasm for the YEN continues to increase and participants are spreading the word. “All the growers want to learn and that is why they are in the YEN project. They’re saying there’s a tremendous amount of information and all you have to do is want to learn how to grow better wheat, and you should sign up.”

Farmers interested in participating in the 2023 Great Lakes YEN are encouraged to visit for more information. Registration for the program will close on January 27, 2023.

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