The world’s biggest agrochemical group, Syngenta, is to recruit dozens of “reference” arable growers in its aim to boost European cereal yields by a fifth within seven years.

It is looking to pick several dozen British farmers over time and work with them to push up yields using better agronomy and a string of new products without increasing the overall level of inputs.

John Atkin, chief operating officer at the Swiss-based giant, says the drive is aimed at improving cereal yields by 15-20% across west and east Europe by 2020.

“We do think we can get more out of existing resources,” he tells Farmers Weekly.

The group says it will build on its network of growers already in place for its hybrid barley productivity guarantee, which offers a cash return if its barley does not boost yields.

But the group is keen to partner with more farmers to focus on the better use of inputs and a switch to better products, and all farms will be fully audited to check on yield levels.

“The increased yield will come from more efficient use of resources and the switch to new and better products,” Dr Atkin adds.

These new products will include hybrid wheat by 2020 to complement hybrid barley, and a new SDHI fungicide for cereals within three years, which is currently used in soya beans and called Solatenol.

There will also be a new fungicide seed treatment, which is called Vibrance in France and other countries, but this is unlikely to be available in Britain before 2016.

The group’s drive towards “sustainable intensive farming” is aimed at trying to feed an extra 200,000 mouths each day worldwide, with the global population set to rise two billion to nine billion by 2050.

It intends to recruit 600 worldwide reference farmers rising eventually to 2,000 in its effort to increase crop yields.

This is part of the group’s newly launched Good Growth Plan to improve the productivity of the world’s major crops without using more land, water or inputs.

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