29 November 1996

Student group outwits field in grain challenge

A group of students beat the old hands to win this years Lloyds Bank Farmer Challenge. Robert Harris finds out how they did it.

GOOD yields, low costs and a reasonable selling price helped a group of final year HND students from De Montfort University win this years Lloyds Bank Farmer Challenge.

No single factor stood out as the winning reason. The groups crop of Brigadier yielded 9.1t/ha (3.7t/acre), which three other groups managed to beat. Northern Lincs Agriculture Discussion Groups Consort came top with 9.5t/ha (3.8t/acre).

De Montforts variable costs worked out at £189/ha (£76/acre). Two teams achieved a lower spend, including Southern Lincs Agriculture Discussion Group, who spent just £155/ha (£63/acre) coaxing 9.3t/ha (3.8t/acre) from their Riband.

But De Montforts machinery costs were second lowest at £175/ha (£71/acre) – they only went through the crop three times with the spayer, and twice with the fertiliser spreader.

They also managed the second highest selling price, securing £104/t for their produce on Sep 20. Sleaford District Farmer Discussion Group, despite selling later, secured a good premium for their Rialto, achieving £111/t. However, yield was just 8t/ha (3.2t/acre).

De Montforts consistent performance made the difference. The group achieved a winning profit margin of £21.82/t, nearly £3 ahead of the nearest rival, Southern LADS.

Like all groups, that figure was below budget. Although yields were better than the predicted 7.9t/ha (3.2t/acre), the price was not. They had expected to get £120/t. As a result, they were almost £11/t under predicted profit.

"The yield was out of this world given the light land and the lack of rain," says group member Jonathan Holmes. He suspects the modern chemistry at flag leaf helped maintain green leaf area, boosting output.

"But selling the crop was becoming a big concern. In the end, we bit the bullet – grain traders thought the price would go back up, but luckily we settled for £104/t. In hindsight, we should have sold half the crop at harvest for £114/t."

It was the Caunton Group which picked up the prize for being closest to budget. Profit was just £0.21/t below the predicted £16.70/t. Busters 9.2t/ha (3.7t/acre) yield was just below expectations, and the price of £100/t was spot on.

Top honours in the 1996 Lloyds Bank Farmer Challenge went to a student group from De Montfort University, Lincs. Here, Lloyds Pat Oakley (centre) presents the trophy to Duncan Bushell (left) and Jonathan Holmes. High yields of Brigadier helped secure the title.

Winning statistics


Yield (t/ha)9.10

Market value (£/t)104.00





N fertiliser48.29


Total variables189.37

Machinery costs174.90

Fixed costs (as Nix)372.50


Total costs747.83


Cost (£/t)82.18

Profit (£/t)21.82