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Groundbreaking multi-country collaboration announced to benefit Great Lakes wheat farmers


GUELPH, ON AND LANSING, MI. – The Michigan Wheat Program, Michigan State University, Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and the University of Guelph launched the Great Lakes YEN, a historic announcement for wheat farmers in the Great Lakes Region. The Great Lakes YEN is part of the global group of Yield Enhancement Networks (YEN), first initiated nine years ago by ADAS, an independent agricultural and environmental consultancy and provider of rural development and policy advice in the United Kingdom.

The Great Lakes YEN will build off the strong history of the YEN developed in the United Kingdom. Through the collaboration of agricultural stakeholders in the Great Lakes region in the U.S. and Ontario, the Great Lakes YEN will connect farmers, agronomists, academics, extension specialists, agriculture organizations and more, to analyze, measure, and understand yield potential and the actual yield of a given field.

Beginning with a focus on winter wheat, the Great Lakes YEN will also build greater understanding of the growing regions around the Great Lakes, identify opportunities for change and betterment from a yield perspective, and potentially more about the environmental and economic benefits of current practices.

“We are excited about the collaboration through this project and what it could mean for farmers,” said Paul Hoekstra, Vice President, Strategic Development, at Grain Farmers of Ontario, “Collaborating with groups such as Michigan State University, Michigan Wheat Program, OMAFRA, and the University of Guelph will give us greater insight into factors limiting wheat yields across the region and will be able to directly help farmers identify how to achieve more of their estimated yield potential.”

“The idea of looking at the estimated yield potential and then providing a direct link back to growers is a novel concept that has really moved the needle in the UK when it comes to yields,” said Dennis Pennington, Michigan State University Wheat Specialist. “During our 2021 Wheat Wisdom webinar series, we were able to feature Dr. Pete Berry from the UK as one of our speakers. There was much interest by growers as to how their YEN functioned. We had already begun our collaborative work with Ontario, so these comments from growers were just what we needed to get the YEN up and running even more quickly.”

Collaboration is nothing new, but a high-level, cutting-edge program such as a Great Lakes YEN is not a normal collaboration. “The ability to be part of a working group comprised of leaders from both Michigan and Ontario, has been a true opportunity,” said Jody Pollok-Newsom, Executive Director of the Michigan Wheat Program. “It is amazing to see what we could get done through our weekly calls, as we are all truly focused on bringing an outstanding program to our farmers in the Great Lakes Region. We are all committed to taking our growers to the next level and this Great Lakes YEN is building off what has been tried and tested in the UK, with changes to reflect the specifics we need here for our growers.”

Every farm involved in the Great Lakes YEN will share soil, tissue, and whole plant analysis for comparison and benchmarking, which will allow the Great Lakes YEN team to offer better insight into each field‘s performance. Farmers will learn more about how their wheat crop develops and produces yield and how they compare to their peers.

It is a program that will encourage farmers to try new things and learn from data that are comparable across the Great Lakes region. Every field is different and has different yield potential based on a multitude of factors, such as environment (rainfall, sunlight), soil (water holding capacity, nutrient level), and management (inputs used and timing).  Once harvest is complete, data will be compiled and reported back to each participant via a field-specific written report as well as through a regional event.  Individual farm data will be specific to each grower.

Applications for the 2021-2022 Great Lakes YEN will be accepted as of July 5, 2021. For more information on the Great Lakes YEN project visit https://www.GreatLakesYEN.com or look for the hashtag #GreatLakesYEN. 

For those companies interested in joining the Great Lakes YEN as a sponsor, please reach out to the Michigan Wheat Program (Jody Pollok-Newsom jody@miwheat.org) or Grain Farmers of Ontario (Marty Vermey mvermey@gfo.ca).

Great Lakes YEN Project

Established in 2021, the Great Lakes YEN (Yield Enhancement Network) was created in partnership with Grain Farmers of Ontario, Michigan State University, Michigan Wheat Program, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the University of Guelph, to improve crop returns through greater understanding of crop performance and increased collaboration between industry and farmers.