19 August 1997

Wheat yield challenger undaunted by failure

BAD weather for much of the summer and harvest has put paid to an East Lothian farmers attempt to break the world wheat yield record. But undaunted, Alistair Miller is keen to have another shot next year, provided he has a crop showing enough early promise.

When harvesting began in late August a new record still seemed possible in the 10ha (25 acres) of Riband in Lye field at Ferrygate Farm, North Berwick. Indeed, Mr Millers spray adviser, David Luke had made a yield estimate during ear fill of 15.5t/ha (6.27t/acre). That was based on ear number and grains/ear, and easily exceeded the existing record of 13.99t/ha (5.66t/ acre) set in 1981 by brothers, Jim and Gordon Rennie, who farmed in West Lothian.

Two combines cut just over half the field on the first day. But although the estimated yield of that area was not far short of the record, Mr Miller had a gut feeling he would not make it. He never had the chance to confirm that sentiment because harvesting was rained off for the next week. By the time harvesting conditions returned, what remained of the Lye field crop was severely lodged and standing wheat elsewhere on the farm had to receive priority.

"Although the Lye field crop looked magnificent right the way through, the June and July weather was not conducive to high yields. We just didnt get enough sunshine," says Mr Miller. He grows 101ha (250 acres) of wheat on his 263ha (650 acres) and expects to average 9.25t/ha (3.75t/ acre) this year, 0.6t/ha (5cwt/acre) below normal.

All of those involved in the attempt, including Jonathan Farmer, Cyanamid Agricultures Scottish area manager, believe the record is there for the taking, given reasonable weather, particularly during flowering and ear fill.

Mr Farmer suggested the idea of a record attempt, and was one of the two adjudicators required by the Guinness Book of Records to validate any record. "If a crop was grown with a record in mind right from the start, Im certain it would be beaten," he contends. He is keen for more growers to go for the record in 1999.

No record this time, but keen to try again – Alaistair Miller of Berwick.