Results from this year’s Yield Enhancement Network competitions gave growers striving to overcome yield barriers an insight into reaching the crop’s full potential and what could be limiting their success.
Entries to this year’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) cereals and oilseeds competition were more impressive than ever, with the best yields almost double the national average.
Kent grower, Richard Budd, unofficially broke the oilseed rape yield world record with a crop of Campus yielding 7.19 tonnes/hectare and reaching 85 per cent of its yield potential.
Growing the crop on virgin ground with next to no flea beetle pressure, Mr Budd put his success down to late drilling, high sunlight levels and a kind winter.
He said: “We put sulphur on early to get the crop away, and finish putting on all nitrogen about 4-5 days before flowering. We aim for a large canopy dominated by the main raceme. We’ve found the main raceme is where we’re getting most of the yield.”
Richard Wainwright of North Yorkshire achieved 72 per cent of yield potential with a crop of DK Exclaim, yielding 6.82t/ha. Conversely, Mr Wainwright put his success down to early drilling, ‘lots of muck and lots of luck’.
He said: “We had a monster crop from the word go and fantastic conditions in northern England. Our strategy was keeping it green for longer, and we decided not to desiccate.”
Winning gold for Best Field Yield in the cereals category, Mark Stubbs from Lincolnshire grew a 16.3t/ha crop of KWS Siskin, achieving 85 per cent of yield potential.
He said using farmyard manure at the early stages was key, as well as getting fertiliser on early in February, even if the plant is small.
“Get it growing straight away. I’ve found over the years by doing that you’ll get a far better root structure.”
He added: “My drill date was November 4, so in a year like this year where people are panicking in mid-October, giving up is a big mistake. The key is to avoid waterlogging. Anything that has been drilled early would’ve been waterlogged, which I think will jeopardise yield. People that haven’t drilled yet are in the perfect position because they won’t have waterlogging issues. Yields maybe less than last year, but we’ll be going into spring with dry feet.”
For the first time, spring barley awards were made, after YEN developed specific estimates for the crop’s potential.
Norfolk grower, Alex Wilcox won the award with a 10.7t/ha crop of Laureate with a grain N of 1.8 per cent, reaching 58 per cent of potential.
Mr Wilcox said he had been trying to combat issues with soil fertility, lodging and high nitrogens, and the most effective method he had found was with seed rate.
“We’ve cut the seed rate back progressively over the years, and this year it was around 235 seeds/sq.m.”
Drilled in January, ear size on the crop was more like that of winter barley, said Mr Wilcox, which he puts this down to a much longer vegetative stage than a spring crop normally would have.
He said: “We set some really big ears and got in there really early with the combine so there was no ears on the floor despite the fact we had some stormy weather.”