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Pushing wheat yields to the limit

Tips for top wheat yields from world wheat record holder Rod Smith, cover crop trial results and crop opportunities were among the discussions at the Agrii Northern Farming conference at Bishop Burton College. 


Heather   Briggs

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Heather   Briggs
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Good, dedicated staff had been crucial to winning the world wheat yield record, said Northumberland-based grower Rod Smith who took the title last September.

 

The record wheat crop was planted after failed beans, with attention to detail and small percentage gains adding up to a yield of 16.52t/ha (6.68t/acre

 

Mr Smith said he decided to try for the record because the farm was normally high yielding, and he wanted to push yields to the limit without losing cost-effectiveness.

 

He told the conference: “There is a direct correlation between nitrogen (N) and yield.

 

“The previous world record holder, Mike Solari, put double the amount of N on his crop; we had to make sure ours was competitive and we were making money out of it.”

 

Key to success had been the soil, cultivations, seed and nutrition.

 

“There are always limiting factors, and the choice is whether you want to address them as there is always a cost. However, there are benefits to the costs you put into the system which you will get back,” said Mr Smith.

 

On his farm, peas give the soils good fertility and a clean entry for wheat; wheat straw is chopped the field is going to go into a pea crop. Subsoiling also plays an important role in looking after the soil.

 

“With the kit we have today, you have to look after the soil structure and allow it to breathe or pay the penalty.

 

“We have seen great benefits from looking after our soils.”

 

Nevertheless, in wet years, there would always be compaction, he said. To minimise this he tries to work in the correct conditions, has tracks on the combine, low pressure tyres on tractors, and he ensures trailers are not over-filled.

 

“You have to make sure you – and the staff – adhere to these practices.”

 

Last year he grew Dickens as a first wheat and is now looking to use it as a second wheat as well.

 

He works closely with his agronomist, Andrew Wallace, discussing the nutrition strategy for the year which will enable him push yields to the maximum and try to get as big a return as possible.

 

Trace elements were applied last year, and he believes these may have contributed towards achieving the record; his first wheats were over 15t/ha (6t/acre), with second wheats weighing in at 12t/ha (4.85t/acre).

 

Mr Smith attributed his success to being the right farmer who had the right soil, the right weather, the right variety, the right nutrition, the right agronomy package, which all came together and resulted in a world record.

 

 

 


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Taking care of the soil at Beale Farm

  • Peas give fertility bonus and provide a rotational ploughing opportunity
  • Wheat straw is chopped and incorporated
  • Barley straw is used for muck swap
  • Regular sub-soiling
  • Compaction avoided in every operation
  • Ground is only worked when conditions are right
  • Tracks, low ground pressure tyres and tramlines are used

Wheat crop nutrition

  • Variable rate P and K, plus blanket treatment of 100 Kg/ha MOP and TSP
  • Nitrogen - calculated from grain protein, target yield and soil reserves
  • Trace elements – according to crop requirements
  • Lime – calcium lime applied at variable rate

Farm Facts

  • Family farm since 1972, originally as tenants, purchased farm in 1986
  • 400ha (988 acres) of heavy clay loam with high water table
  • Rotation: Peas/ wheat/ wheat/ spring barley /wheat/ wheat/ peas
  • Most first wheats grown for seed
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