4 winners highlight reasons behind their bumper grain yields

wheat harvestingWheat yields were the highest on record last summer which was reflected by the high yields seen in this year’s YEN yield competition. David Jones talks to the four competition winners about the key factors behind their successful crops.

Best field yield

tim-lamymanTim Lamyman highlights his focus on picking the right variety and making sure he corrected a potassium deficiency on his chalky Lincolnshire Wolds soils to achieve a top yield.

He chose the wheat variety Reflection and pushed up the seed rate to reach a head count of 930 ears/sq m as he recognised the leaves of the variety were slightly smaller than many others.

The variety also has a more upright flag leaf at a 45 degree angle so he was able to pack in more stems and still get good interception of sunlight by this key yield-forming leaf.

He farms 600ha predominantly arable land at Worlaby, just south of Louth, and had recognised his crops were very short of potassium on his chalky soil.

“We focused on the two key factors of variety and potassium last season to get us to the next stage,” he says.

The deficit was corrected with a potassium-rich foliar feed applied from the first node stage (GS31) through to the end of flowering, and the resultant crop yielded 16.50t/ha, at 79% of its 21t/ha theoretical potential.

Best potential yield

Andrew-HuntNorfolk farm manager Andrew Hunt is the first to win a YEN prize with a crop other than wheat, as on his light land hybrid rye consistently outyields any other cereal crop.

Getting a root system established as quickly as possible in the autumn is key to preparing the crop for a likely dry summer on his 1,300ha arable farm at Great Melton, just west of Norwich.

He grows 200ha of rye for Ryvita on his land, which he describes as sand over gravel, and which has averaged 9.7t/ha for the rye crop over the last five years.

Mr Hunt uses seed dressings and then phosphite and zinc treatments in the autumn and spring to encourage the crop to put down deep roots in anticipated of drier weather ahead.

“Rooting is key to help fight drought in the early summer, and the crop consistently give us a higher yield then any other cereals,” he says.

The result was a yield of 11.38t/ha at 81% of its 14.1t/ha calculated potential, and that was from a field which had given an even bigger yield of rye the previous year at 11.8t/ha.

Best trial yield

Ben-GilesBen Giles’s trial plot of Skyfall was drilled relatively late as part of a blackgrass control strategy, but still established well through the autumn to cope well with the short sharp heatwave in July.

Drilling on the clay loam site close to the River Thames in Oxfordshire was held back until 10 October, but the crop grew well in a benign autumn and mild winter.

Mr Giles, a commercial technical manager for Bayer CropScience, describes the site as good yielding, and the crop was able to put down deep roots to tap moisture from depth.

“The variety Skyfall appeared to suffer less than others varieties in the trial during the dry hot spell in July,” he says.

The crop returned a winning yield of 15.93t/ha in the YEN trials section and came second in the potential yield category as it gave 74% of its 17.6t/ha theoretical yield.

The crop had a high head count of 684 ears/sq m and produced a good specific weight of 81.4kg/hl after a relatively modest 200kg/ha of nitrogen fertiliser.

Best potential trial yield

Bob-BulmerBob Bulmer deliberately picked a challenging Shropshire site with a shallow soil over mudstone to see if he could encourage rooting and water capture of his chosen Evolution wheat variety.

Mr Bulmer, trials manager with distribution and agronomy group Hutchinsons, decided to use a strobulurin fungicide in the spring to encourage the development of the crop.

“The key was the use of a strobulurin in the early spring to encourage early rooting and also improve the efficiency of nitrogen uptake,” he says.

The fungicide was applied at the T0 timing which fitting in well for the need for any yellow rust control which the strobulurin would provide.

His group’s trial work has showed a strobulurin can give a yield advantage of 0.25t/ha, and could be very useful on the Shropshire site with only 500mm depth of soil.

The result was a yield of 11.4t/ha, which gave it 79% of its calculated 14.1t/ha potential.