Ontario Grain Farmer March 2024

6 Cover story Winning with wheat LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE GREAT LAKES YEN Mary Feldskov OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS, THE GREAT LAKES YIELD ENHANCEMENT NETWORK (YEN) participants have posted some pretty impressive results. In 2023, the highest yield award went to Jeff Cook, from London, Ontario, with a yield of 173.4 bushels/acre, with Nick Suwyn of Wayland, Michigan, coming up close behind with 171.4 bushels/acre, and Jeff Krohn, from Elkton Michigan, placing third with a yield of 167.1 bushels/acres. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YIELD The Great Lakes YEN is more than just a yield competition: it’s a way to connect farmers from both sides of the border and help them understand more about their crops and the yields they are achieving — taking a comprehensive approach to learning what agronomic practices may lead to advancing wheat management for the highest economic returns in future fields. Fields are benchmarked, evaluating how an individual field compares to the whole group of Great Lakes YEN entrants through agronomic and environmental data collected throughout the season on items such as rainfall, sunlight, soil baseline nutrient levels, and inputs such as nutrients and crop protection products, the number of applications, and timing of applications. The Great Lakes YEN is also able to model the crop’s yield potential for each participant in a program year by looking at the plant’s development stages, recording the basic resources (light, temperature, and water) available, and calculating the crop’s success in capturing these resources. Using this yield potential model, three 2023 YEN participants came out on top — Mark Davis, from Napanee, Ontario, achieved 117 per cent of yield potential; Krohn and Wallace Loewen from Middleton, Michigan, came in second and third with 107 per cent of yield potential. THREE YEARS OF SUCCESS Jeff Krohn, a Great Lakes YEN participant since its 2021 pilot season, landed in the top three of both the top yield and achieving the highest yield potential in 2023 — and has taken home prizes in each of the three years he’s participated. In 2022, he took home gold in both the yield competition (165.9 bushels/acre) and the potential yield category (88 per cent of potential yield). In 2021, he was awarded top honours in the potential yield category — achieving 73.7 per cent of potential that year. Krohn’s success is not a surprise to Dennis Pennington, Michigan State University wheat • The Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) is not just a yield competition; it’s an opportunity to benchmark an individual field’s potential and actual yield against regional averages. • Jeff Krohn from Elkton, Michigan, has topped the leaderboard in each of the three years of the YEN program in both the highest yield and percentage of yield potential achieved. • Krohn values the YEN for the opportunity it provides to network with and learn from other wheat growers in the Great Lakes region. • Cover crops, lower seeding rates, narrower rows, and early planting dates are some of the similarities he sees among high-producing wheat growers. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW extension specialist and member of the Great Lakes YEN steering committee. Taking what he’s learned from the Great Lakes YEN program, Krohn has improved his yields and potential yield percentages year-over-year. “Jeff is a top-notch farmer,” says Pennington. “He pays attention to details and is constantly testing new equipment and practices on his farm. Jeff is always looking for new ways to overcome production hurdles and find new ways to be more productive and sustainable.” ALEXANDRA DACEY, DENNIS PENNINGTON, JOANNA FOLLINGS, AND JEFF KROHN AT THE GREAT LAKES YEN WRAP UP MEETING IN JANUARY 2024.