Serious details for Serious Wheat Growers in Great Lakes YEN

Agronomist, Tim Meulensteen CCA-ON, shares his experience of participation through the initial launch years of the Great Lakes YEN.

The Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) was evaluated as a pilot program for 2021 (nearly 50 participants) and moved into first full year with the 2022 crop (bumping to 100 participants.)  2023 enrolment is now complete and their target is to conduct with 150 Participants.  There has been exceptional support from the industry and the value chain that has helped this program get off the ground and established.

C&M Seeds is a proud sponsor of the network, as a key genetics supplier to the Ontario industry we are excited for the enthusiasm to build and for successful wheat crops to get the spotlight they deserve.  Every year the program makes improvements, and I think it is really exciting to see what this program is going to look like 5 to 10 years down the road!  I had the privilege to participate with two fields in the pilot, and again with one field in 2022.  (And yes, 2023 registration is submitted.)

From The Growers View…

The first comment from each grower is consistently “I like growing wheat, I think I do a good job, but I want to see how I stack up.” Each grower receives a report that outlines their results and indicates how their crop ranks against the group of participants.  The twenty-nine-page report is extremely detailed.  The rankings are done within two categories.  First, the metrics are ranked on numerical “Grain Yield”.  How does your raw yield submitted compare to the rest of the group?  Next, the metrics are ranked on “% Yield Potential”.  The theoretical “Potential” is established based on soil type, sunshine, and precipitation. How much of your potential yield did you obtain?  One additional level of insight provided in the results charts is an indication of the performance of the Top 10% of growers in each category.  This shines a small light on potential areas for improvement.  Many growers ask themselves, “If my potential yield is determined to be at such a level, what can I do to get more of it?”  “Am I putting on enough nutrients?”  “Are they going on at the right time/place?” Every grower will likely create a wish list of improvements they want to implement in the next year.

The networking and information exchange is also very valuable. In addition to the final report, there is two meetings hosted.  Spring virtually, and Winter in-person. There is a real power to pulling many like-minded growers in a room to share their winning wheat strategies.

From The Agronomist View…

The grower and the Agronomist will have to collaborate on the project.  No question about it.  There is a substantial amount of work involved in data collection, sample collection, and verification.  The CropTrak software organizes things, and the YEN leaders are good to send reminders about timing of upcoming tasks.  Each year the tasks become more familiar and participation gets easier.  The wheat is progressing through the important stages of growth at the exact same time as every farmer is trying to get their spring crop seeding accomplished.  You have to be able to keep one eye on the wheat crop.  The detail in the reports and rankings will amaze you, and you will find some tactics you want to tweak in future.

Key Learnings so far…

The Crop demands a lot of nutrients in the rapid growth from green up to flag leaf.  It is important to ensure the right amounts of nutrients are provided in available form to support maximum growth.  (for example, a few growers had very high soil phosphorous levels, but plant tissue tests showed “less than average” concentrations in the plant.  Did it have what it needed?) Big Biomass creates Big Yields. This correlation became very clear in 2022 crop.  This was determined through analyzing the whole plant samples provided just prior to harvest.

Room for improvement…

In all we do, there is room for improvement.  In future the YEN team will strive to ensure the weather data used is as accurate as possible.  In turn, determination of yield potential will become more accurate.  Also, the protocol clarity on how and when to perform important sampling tasks will get better as the years go on.

Whether you are a Grower or Agronomist you will not regret your efforts and participation in the YEN.  Many rewards.  If you missed the chance for 2023, sign up in 2024.

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