Wheat ears © Tim Scrivener© Tim Scrivener

A New Zealand farmer has set a new official world record yield for wheat of nearly 16.8t/ha, reclaiming the prestigious title from the UK.

Eric Watson, who farms near Ashburton in the Canterbury region on the country’s south island, harvested the 11ha field of UK-bred Oakley winter wheat with an average yield of 16.79t/ha.

This breaks the previous record of 16.52t/ha held by Northumberland grower Rod Smith since the harvest of 2015.

See also: 5 top yielding winter wheat varieties of harvest 2016

New Zealand grower Eric Watson holds the world wheat yield record

New Zealand grower Eric Watson

Mr Watson said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have set a new record – I feel a bit overcome in a way, it’s quite an achievement.”

The record-breaking wheat crop was lightly irrigated, with only two applications. This puts the feat into perspective given that on average, irrigated wheat yields in New Zealand yield 12t/ha.

Mr Watson farms 490ha of arable cropping between Ashburton and the coast and specialises in growing seed crops including wheat, fescue, plantain, radish, forage maize and other vegetables. 

He is unsure whether he will have another tilt at the record, or whether he will need to. If a UK farmer was attempting the record, the harvest would occur in September, and Mr Watson would then have to wait until next autumn to plant.

Record-breaking crop key facts

  • Winter wheat variety: Oakley
  • Drilled: mid-April 2016 and harvested mid-February 2017
  • Location: Paddock 15, Wakanui, Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Yield: 16.79t/ha from 11.89ha

“It is an exceptional yield, but I could always do better and that’s my aim. There were things I saw when I was out there in the combine harvester and I thought, yeah, I could do this a whole lot better,” he said.

New Zealand’s dominance doesn’t end with wheat; one of its growers also holds the official title for the highest yielding crop of barley.

Two years ago Timaru’s Warren Darling broke the world record for barley with a yield of 13.8t/ha with the Blackman Agriculture-bred variety 776.