Essex family team wins top milling wheat award

Father-and-son team Stephen and James Perry won the top prize to be the leading milling wheat farmers at harvest 2019, with a strategy based on the timely applications of inputs and helped by favourable weather 

The Essex farmers scooped the top award in the milling quality challenge with a crop of Zyatt winter wheat yielding 12.6t/ha and a grain protein content just shy of 14%.

Stephen says they have spent the past 20 years specialising in breadmaking wheats, as their relatively small farming and contracting operation gives them the flexibility to be focused on timely crop inputs.

See also: How Yen growers delivered monster OSR and cereal yields

The wheat crop had a four-way split of nitrogen fertiliser with the aim of applying their favoured urea fertiliser in cool weather and hopefully just before light rain to wash it into the soil, James says.

“We have the time and machinery to make growing milling wheat work and it is more interesting than growing feed wheat,” he tells Farmers Weekly.

Winning crop

The harvested crop with a protein of 13.8%, hagberg of 280 and specific weight of 82kg/hl was good enough to win the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) wheat quality award run by crop consultant Adas.

The award is sponsored by the National Association of British and Irish Millers (Nabim) and prizes were presented at the AHDB milling wheat conference on Thursday, with the second prize going to Bedfordia Farms and third to a Kent farm managed by Sentry.

Two men at award ceremony

James Perry and his father Stephen

The Perry family farm 120ha of largely chalky boulder clay at Aldburys Farm, Hatfield Broad Oak, near Bishop’s Stortford, close to the Essex-Hertfordshire border. They run a six-year rotation of wheat, wheat, oilseed rape, wheat, wheat and peas.

Their winning crop of the variety Zyatt followed oilseed rape, with the land min-tilled and then drilled on 10 October. The fellow milling wheat variety Skyfall is preferred as a second wheat on the farm. 

“We gained from a mild and dry autumn which forced the roots down in search of moisture, and then we had rain in May and June to help the yield,” says James.

Nitrogen use

A four-way nitrogen split totalled 294kg/ha, with the first dose of 54kg/ha of solid urea applied with 60kg/ha of sulphur.

Two main doses of 100kg/ha of solid urea were then applied followed by 40kg/ha of liquid urea on the wheat ear.

James says timeliness is key on the farm and they aim to feed the crop when it needs nutrition. Tissue testing is now used to adjust for any minor nutrient deficiencies, while a four-spray fungicide programme is used to protect the crop from disease.

Sarah Clarke, crop physiologist at Adas, says there were 43 entries to the wheat YEN from Group 1 milling varieties, but the list was trimmed back to those that reached traditional milling wheat standard of 13% protein, 250 hagberg and 76kg/hl specific weight.

The remaining entries were assessed in terms of grain yield, protein yield and the quality of flour and baked bread.

The Perrys’ entry had the second-highest yield and second-highest protein yield, but the grain and dough quality were excellent and overall baking quality was good.

Wheat at Aldburys Farm 

Variety Zyatt
Drilling date 10 October 
Nitrogen 294kg/ha in four splits
Fungicides Four-spray programme
Yield 12.6t/ha
Protein content 13.8%
Protein yield 1.5t/ha
Hagberg 280
Specific weight 82kg/hl

YEN Wheat Quality Award 2020

First place Stephen and James Perry, Aldburys Farm Contracting, Essex. Variety: Zyatt. Sponsor: AHDB.

Second place Ian Rudge, Bedfordia Farms, Bedfordshire. Variety: Illustrious. Sponsor: Hutchinsons.

Third place Trevor Pierce (Sentry), R Sternberg Farms, Kent. Variety: Zyatt.  Sponsor: Bayer.

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