Winter wheat producers in Ontario and Michigan are collaborating to drive increased productivity for wheat in the Great Lakes basin.
A Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) is being formed for wheat bringing together farmers and researchers in Michigan and Ontario.
Why it matters: Wheat is sometimes left out of crop rotations because it is less profitable than corn and soybeans, despite long-term agronomic advantages. Better management that leads to higher yields could result in more acres of wheat being grown.
What is a YEN?
YENs originated in the United Kingdom, initiated by ADAS, an independent agriculture and environmental consulting company. The concept has spread to other European countries like Germany and Belgium. Farmers involved in a YEN are part of a process that focuses intensely on a wheat production site, with many parameters monitored and measured to determine barriers to greater yield. A detailed report is provided at the end of the process that includes test results and benchmark comparisons with others in the project.
A key indicator from the YEN is the percentage of potential yield achieved by the site, taking into consideration the individual characteristics of that site.
There will be 23 sites in Ontario this year, says Marty Vermey, senior agronomist with Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO). GFO is a partner in the project with Michigan State University, Michigan Wheat Program, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph.
There will be about 20 more sites in the United States as well.
Why the cross-border partnership?
There has been long coordination between Ontario and north-central U.S. states where winter wheat is grown, including Michigan and Ohio. An organization called the Great Lakes Wheat Workers involves mostly extension staff and researchers who work with wheat and it is that group that has provided the basis for the new cross-border YEN. That includes OMAFRA and Vermey says Joanna Follings, OMAFRA’s cereals specialist has been a big supporter of the YEN idea.
The project will be administered separately in Ontario and Michigan, but cooperation gives wheat growers in both regions access to a broader group of experts. In Ontario that includes Dr. Dave Hooker, from the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus and in Michigan Dennis Pennington, Michigan State University’s wheat extension specialist.
Vermey says the hope is to have about 100 sites in each region eventually.
Some investment needed by participating farmers
Farmers who wish to be part of the YEN pay $250 each to be involved, although the cost of the extensive tissue and soil testing regimen is about $500 for each site. Farmers will be required to take the samples themselves from their site, although they can work with an agronomist if they wish. Farmers also have to be able to record and manage data from their site, including planting, inputs data and independent verification of yield.
What about corn and soybeans?
The YEN in the United Kingdom started with cereals, so the Ontario-Michigan project will as well. Vermey says the models haven’t been developed for corn and are just now being released for soybeans, but that creating YENs for those crops could be a possibility in the future.
It’s also time for wheat to get some attention, says Vermey.
“So much is invested and there is a lot going on in corn and soybeans, wheat is sometimes the forgotten crop.”
Applications for the 2021-2022 Great Lakes YEN will be accepted as of July 5, 2021. For more information on the Great Lakes YEN project visit www.GreatLakesYEN.com.
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