01 March 2017
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, based on a yield of 11.70 t/ha and an input cost of £82.65/ha. 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 winners all come from family farming backgrounds, with a strong bias towards livestock. The only Cornishman in the team Reuben’s family has an organic poultry, beef and sheep farm. The rest of the team are all Devonians; Rosie comes from a hill sheep and beef farm, Holly works on two dairy farms and keeps her own small flock of sheep and Lauren comes from a mixed farming background.
The competition, which has been running since 2012, is open to agriculture and crop science students from universities and colleges across the UK. The 2016 competition sites were at NIAB’s regional centres at Morley, Telford, Cambridge, Cirencester, Hereford, Sutton Scotney, Berwick and Newton Abbot, where Duchy College’s plots were based. The competition 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. NIAB TAG trials officers apply the recommendation to fully-replicated field plots; we make it clear that their recommendations must be in on time and ask that they fully explain their decision-making.”
Ian 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 whopping £257.83/ha, or 20%, increase in margin over the NIAB standard.
“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 Ian.
Team Captain Rosie Dodd emphasised that the site information from local NIAB TAG trials manager, Mark Wavish, proved very useful. “We first studied the topography and climate around the Kingsbridge area where the competition site was located. Although the south-west is well known for damp conditions and septoria, the locality around the trials is relatively dry in comparison.
“Our next step was to check the AHDB fungicide response data for each possible product and we then decided on a balance between price and efficacy. We felt lower rates were justified by the generally lower disease pressure in the area in the 2016 season, which was backed up by a tour of the competition plots where we saw little disease. So we kept with fairly basic chemistry early on, saving the main spend for our T2 to protect the flag leaf,” said Rosie.
Yield and margin
The replicated plots allow a proper evaluation of the entrants’ decision-making, including milling tests, with aspects such as improvement in margin compared to a standard NIAB £90.98/ha agronomy treatment taken into account in the final judgement. Across all the competition plots the highest yield was 11.83 t/ha (102% of site standard), the lowest yield was 5.03 t/ha (49% of site standard), the highest input costs were £156.05/ha and the lowest input costs were £82.65/ha. A special mention to Moulton College in Northamptonshire who entered six teams, with three finishing in the top eight.
The final results of the 2016 NIAB Agronomy Cup:
1. The Choppers - Duchy College
2. IBERS – Aberystwyth University
3. NIAB TAG Cirencester Members
Winning NIAB Agronomy Cup crop recommendations
|Treatment||NIAB standard||Duchy College - The Choppers|
|AN||As farm crop||As farm crop|
|T0||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha||Bravo 500 @ 1.5 l/ha|
|T1||Tracker @ 1.0 l/ha + Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha||Folicur @ 1.0 l/ha + Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha|
|T2||Adexar @ 1.5 l/ha||Aviator @ 1.25 l/ha|
|T3||Folicur @ 0.75l/ha||Ignite @ 1.0 l/ha|
|T0 PGR||chlormequat @ 1.25 l/ha||chlormequat @ 2.0 l/ha|
|T1 PGR||chlormequat @ 1 l/ha||None|
Final results 2016
Teams from the following colleges and universities also took part: Reading University, Harper Adams University, Newcastle University, Royal Agricultural University, Easton & Otley College
Trials sites/NIAB centre