Four agriculture students from Cornwall’s Duchy College are the winners of the NIAB Agronomy Cup and the title ‘the best student wheat growers in the country’.
Rosie Dodd, Reuben Ridout, Holly Yelland and Lauren Hill are all studying for a foundation degree in agriculture. They achieved the highest gross margin in the 2016 competition at £1,531.95/ha (£619.97/acre), based on a yield of 11.70 t/ha (4.70/acre) and an input cost of £82.65/ha (£33.47/acre).
They beat 18 other university and college teams, and a team of NIAB TAG farmer members, to lift the Cup and win a day out with a NIAB TAG agronomist and free entry to a NIAB TAG members’ technical conference.
The competition, which has been running since 2012, is judged on a number of factors, including margin as well as yield, so any site differences are compensated for.
NIAB TAG’s national trials co-ordinator, Ian Midgley said: “The competition challenges a team’s agronomy, farm management and agricultural decision-making skills.
“It differs to other plot competitions as teams make input decisions for a milling wheat variety on a NIAB field trials site local to their college or university, which emphasises the importance of basing recommendations on field observations and local conditions.”
Mr Midgley explained that the winning team’s approach was to implement a straightforward input programme with great attention to detail regarding costs, prevailing disease pressure and fungicide efficacy. The result was a £257.83/ha (£104.34/acre) increase in margin over the NIAB standard by around 20 per cent.
“No extra N was chosen as their crop was very unlikely to make milling quality and as the wheat followed oilseed rape there should have been a reasonable supply of mineralised soil nitrogen, in addition to the 245 kg/ha applied as ammonium nitrate,” said Mr Midgley.