Prestigious National Awards for Local Farmers

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Two Staffordshire farmers have proved that an attention to detail when growing crops pays off as they are named as winners in the national Yield Enhancement Network Competition.

John Billington of Adbaston Hall, near Newport won a Bronze award for his 5.9t/ha yield of oilseed rape. Whilst Mark Swift of Red House Farm, High-Onn near Stafford won the best potential yield for his crop of winter wheat achieving 64% of the 15.8t/ha potential.

The Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) connects agricultural organisations and farmers who are striving to improve crop yields. Entrants to the competition can compare their yield against other entrants, in terms of both the proportion of yield potential achieved and the total tonnes/ha, as well as their yield against a potential yield based on long term average weather data.

Both growers put down the success of their entries to an attention to detail at establishment and keeping their crops healthy and green for as long as possible throughout the very dry 2018 growing season.

John Billington is a progressive farmer who adopts the philosophy ‘if you don’t experiment and try something new then you will not move forward ‘and therefore was very interested in the YEN competition.

Working closely with his agronomist Mark Orton of Hutchinsons, Mr Billington puts down his successful oilseed rape crop yield to focussing on establishment conditions.

“Get it right at the start and the crop can get those roots right down – this is what we concentrated on achieving and it put the crop in a good position for us to push it for yield through a measured and accurate nutrition programme,” he says.

Mark Orton explains that this was achieved by closely analysing nutrient levels in the plant by tissue analysis throughout the season which resulted in feeding it additional sulphur, magnesium and molybdenum.

“The crop also had a specific growth regulator for better canopy regulation. “

“For next years competition we will focus more on the gross margin of the crop which means really pushing those yields; there is some recent interesting work on late nitrogen timing and multiple applications, that is worth experimenting with for next year,” says Mark.

Mark Smith of Red House Farm, near Stafford, won the yield potential category of the YEN for achieving 64% of the total yield potential possible for his crop of winter wheat.

His agronomist Jason Dymock of Hutchinsons puts this down to keeping the crop greener for longer in what was a very dry summer when many wheat crops died off early, which had a detrimental impact on final yields.

“We applied early nitrogen which got the crop tillering, the crop also received good levels of phosphite and well targeted plant growth regulation, which meant that it held onto the tillers developing into ears and ultimately yield.”

“Looking ahead to next year, our focus will continue to be on keeping the canopy green for as long as possible and to do this we will look more closely at regular tissue sampling and use more foliar trace elements and biostimulants to address any nutritional shortfalls.”

“Winning these awards in a very competitive national competition is an outstanding achievement. YEN has inspired us to be better and more focussed at what we do. If it makes us better farmers and means we improve crop productivity then it’s a win-win situation for all,” concludes Mark Orton.

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