Industry initiative aims to boost wheat yields

ADAS is leading a new industry initiative aimed at reinvigorating research and interest in raising yields, including a competition for the record UK wheat yield of 2013.

The Yield Enhancement Network is a group of farming organisations aimed at developing a knowledge exchange programme and working with farmers to improve yields.

ADAS principal scientist Roger Sylvester Bradley believes it will foster and energise innovation in the arable industry. “We need to understand how bigger yields can be produced.”

The biophysical potential of wheat in the UK could be close to 20t/ha. Leading farms and research trials in the UK can regularly hit 12t/ha, but the average farm produces less than 8t/ha, which hasn’t increased for 15 years.

A key part of breaking the yield plateau is to work out how record-yielding crops are being achieved. Therefore, the group is to launch a competition this spring inviting growers to break the UK yield record. It will also consider yield relative to land potential, so all farmers can enter, including those on less favoured sites.

Currently, the UK record for a wheat yield is held by David Hoyles, a Lincolnshire farmer who achieved 14.3t/ha in 2011. He broke a 20-year record held by Gordon Rennie, who harvested 13.99t/ha on a farm in Midlothian, Scotland, in 1981.

“Obviously there’s a lot of potential to improve crop productivity, but while crop prices have been low, growers have been more preoccupied with reducing their costs. The YEN’s objective is to re-energise interest in realising high yields.”

Looking to the future, he hopes the network will evolve by attracting more members and bringing in funding so that it can carry out its own research to test any outlandish ideas that may boost production.

Founding members include ADAS, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Frontier, Hutchinsons, Syngenta and Yara, and YEN is encouraging more organisations to join the network.

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