Ontario Grain Farmer March 2024

10 Agronomy 2024 YEN wrap-up A SUCCESSFUL THIRD YEAR IN THE BOOKS Alexandra Dacey THE ONTARIO GREAT LAKES YIELD ENHANCEMENT NETWORK (YEN) wrap-up meeting, held in January 2024, kicked off with a welcome from Marty Vermey, senior agronomist with Grain Farmers of Ontario and a welcome video from Dr. Roger Sylvester-Bradley, head of crop performance with ADAS — the founders of the Yield Enhancement Network in the U.K. Sylvester-Bradley congratulated the group for the tremendous interest in the program in North America and also took the time to present some data summarizing the factors that affect yields in the U.K., emphasizing that there are several factors both in and out of farmers’ control. One of the most anticipated sessions of the day was the 2023 Great Lakes YEN data recap presented by Joanna Follings, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) cereals specialist, and Dennis Pennington, Michigan State University wheat systems specialist. They noted that a few trends were evident across fields that participated in 2023: most fields used no-till practices, seeded wheat after soybeans, and applied a fungicide at both the T1 (early spring) and T3 (flowering) stages for disease management. It was hypothesized that some of the high yields achieved in 2023 were due to a longer and cooler grain fill period. Higher solar radiation (both incident and intercepted) across the region was also highlighted compared to previous years. A correlation analysis was also presented, highlighting the relationships between different variables. With thousands of correlations assessed in 2023, a few key relationships were identified. The team noted that the amount of above-ground biomass from the mature winter wheat crop was strongly tied to higher grain yields, evident in the high biomass recorded for the 2023 yield winners in Ontario and the U.S. Higher biomass helps with earlier canopy closure and more solar radiation capture. Other factors associated with high yields included the number of heads per square meter and the number of grains per square meter. FACTORS AFFECTING YIELD STABILITY Dr. Bruno Basso, from Michigan State University, presented the factors affecting yield stability to the group over all three years of the Great Lakes YEN program. Dr. Basso explained the concept of a “digital twin,” which recreates an entire field digitally with the help of artificial intelligence, remote sensing, yield history maps, and SALUS (systems approach for land use sustainability). This approach allows Dr. Basso’s lab to create detailed temporal yield stability maps, showing stable versus unstable areas of a single field. With increasing interest in the agricultural research community to create a spatial inventory of yield maps, Dr. Basso and his team were able to take the data collected by Great Lakes YEN participants and create individual yield stability maps. Farmers can then use these maps to help them determine how to best manage specific areas within their fields, particularly those underperforming. Eventually,