Grain growers could gain £500/field if they get crop nutrition spot on, and this has prompted crop consultants Adas to launch an initiative to help achieve this benefit.
Cereal, oilseed and pulse growers will be able to get their grain analysed post-harvest this year for 12 essential crop nutrients, and so can make adjustment for next season to improve crop nutrition.
This is being launched as part of Adas’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) as YEN Nutrition, with Roger Sylvester-Bradley, head of crop performance at Adas, saying that crop nutrition is still a major challenge for even the best growers.
“If all nutrients are optimised, then the benefits would be £500/field. We think that grain analysis is providing a really useful measure of the ultimate success of crop nutrition,” says Prof Sylvester-Bradley.
The move is the result of analysing more than 900 crops from the YEN yield competition – which is coming up for its eighth harvest and showed that three-quarters of crops were short of one nutrient and half were deficient in more than one.
The main deficiency problems are with the macro nutrients, with half of the 900 crops low in phosphorus, and the next most important deficiencies being nitrogen, potassium and magnesium.
“Phosphorus is the main problem, with half the crops below critical values, and this is a major challenge,” he says.
Manganese was the micro nutrient that was found to be the most widely deficient from the grain samples.
Grain analysis will complement soil testing – which only tests for three major nutrients – and foliar testing, which gives a value at a spot in time. The post-harvest grain analysis will test for 12 macro and micro nutrients.
Three of the some 300 YEN members say they are keen to take part in grain analysis to give them more information about improving their crops.
Warwickshire grower David Brightman says his involvement in the YEN since 2018 has led him to review completely his nitrogen fertiliser strategy for the milling wheats he grows for breadmaker Warburtons.
Scottish Borders grower David Fuller-Shapcott joined the YEN in 2014 and it has prompted him to try a new crop nutritional product post-flowering last year, which led to a very high thousand grain weight for his oilseed rape crop.
David Hoyles in south-east Lincolnshire, a YEN member since 2016, says he will gain knowledge on which crops need extra nutrition to try and produce profitable crops.
Over the seven harvest years of the YEN, wheat yields have peaked at 16.5t/ha with an average of 11.1t/ha, and the 16.5t/ha in 2015 was a world yield record at the time.
Last year, north Lincolnshire grower Mark Stubbs won with a yield of 16.3t/ha from the variety Siskin, which was only drilled in the first week of November.
The cost of joining YEN Nutrition will be £250, which will include grain analysis of six fields, with a £40 charge for each additional field.
The grain samples will be analysed for the five major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sulphur – and seven other micro nutrients – calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, boron, copper and molybdenum.