YEN competition leverages data and peer-to-peer learning to boost wheat yields

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More than just a friendly competition, the Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network is designed to better understand all the external factors and management decisions that drive wheat yields.

Marty Vermey, senior agronomist for Grain Farmers of Ontario, says the network is about not just who grows the most wheat, but also about what’s the real potential of a particular field and what management decisions that can help achieve that full potential.

“It’s a great opportunity for farmers to see how they can do, how they can improve upon themselves and then benchmark themselves against others,” he says.

This growing season proved challenging in May and June when the tap turned off for many growers. That impacted the yield potential, Vermey says, however eventual yields were very good and several farmers surpassed 100 per cent of potential. Findings like these, Vermey says, help to guide agronomists, researchers and farmers to think about the why of that — including, perhaps, the ability for wheat to draw more moisture than previously thought.

There is a fair amount of data collection required by participating farmers, he says, so it definitely takes more time and effort to be a part of the YEN, but the lessons learned are really valued by the farmers, Vermey says.

“I think that’s one of the best things about this project is that we’re going to learn more about the Great Lakes basin. We can get  geography-specific as well. What are some of the limitations? How can we change our practices to improve our overall yield? That’s really the goal of the whole project is to make us all better wheat producers,”

The Great Lakes YEN is open to farmers across Ontario and Michigan, and is put on by Grain Farmers of Ontario, Michigan State University, Michigan Wheat Program, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the University of Guelph. 2023 marks its third year, and the winners can be found here.

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