Many Ontario farmers would have heard about Yield Enhancement Networks (YEN) for the first time about two years ago at the Southwest Agricultural Conference. ADAS, an independent provider of agricultural and environmental consultancy services in the U.K., formed the first YEN back in 2012, with the goal of setting up collaboration between industry partners, agronomists, and farmers.

Now Ontario’s own YEN launched officially June 9 of this year. The Great Lakes YEN is a partnership between the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), Michigan State University, Michigan Wheat Program, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and the University of Guelph. The network’s first focus is to analyze, measure, and understand yield potential and the actual yield of a given winter wheat field.

In this Wheat School episode, Bernard Tobin is joined by Marty Vermey, senior agronomist with Grain Farmers of Ontario, at a YEN site just outside London, Ont.

The key to a YEN is farmers engaging, sharing, and learning from each other, and there’s a lot that can be learned through a YEN, starting even before planting. So what can be learned from a YEN that’s specific to a wheat crop in Ontario?

Vermey says that data collection begins even before seeding, starting with soil sample collection before planting, followed by tissue testing at Zadoks stage 31 and 39 before bolting, and then following up with a grain sample at harvest.

“Even including all that scientific stuff that takes a lot of lab work, we’re also actually looking at population, fertility programs, fungicide programs and just analyzing the whole project,” says Vermey.

Results from each site are benchmarked against other results within the network, using University of Guelph crop models. As Vermey explains, it’s not just about yield at the end of the day; it’s also about the per cent yield potential a farmer can gain — how you got there and the efficiencies in production gained along the way.

More information can be found at greatlakesyen.com including how to apply for next year, beginning in September.

Catch the full conversation between Tobin and Vermey including all the factors that go towards yield, and how the highest heads per square meter and tillers, might not equal the highest potential. Things like head length, the number of kernels per head, the size of kernels, and keeping the field clean of diseases, can all lead to a bigger potential. 

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