Bumper grain yields were prompted by cool sunny summer

Sharply high grain yields in an Adas-organised yield competition last summer were driven by bright cool spring and summer weather, which encouraged deep rooting and slow grain filling.

Yields jumped by 1t/ha, or nearly 10%, as more sunshine gave plants high light radiation levels and moderate temperatures kept crops growing for longer through the season.

Cooler weather in June and July had a more noticeable affect on crops north of The Wash, creating a north-south divide, with northern crops generally outperforming those further south.

Tim Lamyman, farming high on the Lincolnshire Wolds, achieved the highest yield in the Adas Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) competition with a yield of 16.50t/ha, but there were other top yielding crops from Scotland, Ireland and Denmark.

See also: Wheat yield world record shattered in Lincolnshire

Daniel Kindred, senior research scientist at Adas, says this year’s entries saw a number of wheat yields over 15t/ha, whereas the previous highest yield in the three-year old competition was 14.5t/ha.

“Yields were helped by bright weather especially in March, April and June and relatively cool conditions in June and July,” he told an awards presentation on Wednesday (11 November).

Overall grain yields rose to 12.8t/ha from last season’s 11.8t/ha, while calculated potential yields were virtually unchanged at about 21t/ha, which helped to close the perceived “yield gap”.

He calculated that the extra sunshine over the five-month March-July period boosted yield by 0.71t/ha compared with long-term yield averages, and gave an extra 0.35t/ha over 2014’s yields.

The exceptionally bright March and April together with low rainfall encouraged crops to develop deep root to access more water and so survive the short sharp heatwave in early July, he adds.

The generally cooler weather played a part to give a longer growing season, give less water loss through respiration, more efficient use of water and light, and greater floret survival and grain set.

“We had slower crop development, especially in the North, prolonged grain fill, delayed maturity and harvest, and reduced night-time plant respiration,” adds Dr Kindred.

These lower summer temperature were more marked from Lincolnshire northwards, helping to push up northern yields due to a longer grain-filling period.

He added high yields nationally were also helped by timely drilling, good establishment, no delays to pesticide applications, a general low level of weeds/pests/diseases, and a climate giving sunny days, cool nights and just enough rain.

Roger Sylvester-Bradley, head of crop performance at Adas, reported YEN entries numbered 69 in 2015, virtually double last year’s 35, with 56 from England, five from Denmark, four from Scotland, two from Wales and one apiece from Ireland and the Netherlands.

The range of yields was from 9.6t/ha to 16.5t/ha with the highest yields coming from those crops with the higher biomass – grain and straw – with average crop biomass in 2015 rising sharply by 3t/ha to 21.5t/ha compared with 2014.

Mr Lamyman’s crop broke the five-year old world wheat yield held by Mike Solari’s crop of 15.64t/ha in New Zealand, while later this summer Northumberland grower Rod Smith achieved a yield of 16.52t/ha, although he did not enter the YEN competition.

Award winners for the YEN competition in 2015 – field entries

Best field yield   t/ha
GOLD Tim Lamyman, Worlaby, Louth, Lincolnshire (with Hutchinsons) 16.50
SILVER Ian Howard, Co Louth, Ireland (open entrant) 15.68
BRONZE David Hoyles, Lutton, Lincolnshire (with Hutchinsons) 15.52
Best % of potential yield % of t/ha
GOLD Andrew Hunt, Great Melton, Norwich (with Hutchinsons) 81% of 14.1
SILVER Tim Lamyman 79% of 21.0
BRONZE David Fuller-Shapcott, Kelso (open entrant) 78% of 18.1

Award winners for the YEN competition in 2015 – plot entries

Best plot yield t/ha
GOLD Ben Giles of Bayer CropScience at Faringdon, Oxfordshire 15.93
SILVER Lars Bonde Eriksen of Seges at Hejsager, Denmark 14.99
BRONZE Limagrain at Langham, Suffolk 14.95
Best % of potential yield % of t/ha
GOLD Bob Bulmer at Hutchinson at Ludlow, Shropshire 79% of 14.1
SILVER Ben Giles of Bayer CropScience 74% of 17.6
BRONZE Limagrain at Langham, Suffolk 68% of 22.1

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Adas launched its YEN competition in 2013 in an effort to break through the yield barrier facing growers, with the hope it would drive innovation and encourage growers to get close to their maximum potential yield. For more information, go to www.yen.adas.co.uk

The competition is sponsored by Adas, Bayer, Farmers Weekly, Hutchinsons, Limagrain, NFU, NiabTag, nrm laboratories, Syngenta and Yara. For this current season, Rothamsted Research, AHDB cereals and oilseeds, Adama, De Sangosse and AGSpace are new sponsors.