Northumberland Team Set New World Wheat Record

Company News

September 25, 2015

Northumberland Team Sets 2015 World Wheat Record With Master Seeds Crop of Dickens

The Beal Farm team

The Beal Farm team

Without fanfare and in the understated way typical of Northumberland and the Scottish borders, James, Rod and Vicky Smith and their Agrii team at Beal overlooking Holy Island set a new world wheat record in 2015 with a 16.52 t/ha crop of Dickens grown for Master Seeds.

The world wheat record, confirmed by Guinness Book of Records following detailed independent verification and video recording, is all the more impressive for being produced to the farm’s strictly commercial seed crop growing regime. It shades the 16.50 t/ha grown by Tim Lamyman in Lincolnshire which is not being put forward for official recognition and smashes current title holder Mike Solari’s 15.64 t/ha New Zealand record.

From the 11.259 ha field mapped by GPS on the day the Beal Farm team harvested a total of 191.40 t of Dickens at an average17.4% moisture on September 1, giving a 15% moisture adjusted yield of 16.519 t/ha.

For a total input cost of under £46/t, the crop generated a gross margin of over £1000/ha at a feed wheat price of £110/t to underline its financial value as part of the Agrii Best of British Wheat 15t Challenge. And this before accounting for the extra returns from a seed crop and the timely use of Agrii marketing tools.

Rod Smith, who only beat his father James’ long-standing 4.7 t/acre (11.6t/ha) farm wheat average record last season, puts this year’s Dickens achievement down to a combination of variety and season with fantastic agronomy and farm teamwork.

“This time last year we really didn’t know much about Dickens and it was the only crop of the variety we grew,” he explained. “But we accepted Agrii seed manager, Rodger Shirreff’s recommendation of the variety for its all-round strength and particular northern yielding ability. We’re happy we did as it comfortably out-yielded all our other seed crops. So we’ve had Agrii farm-treat enough seed from the Dickens to plant over half our entire 160 ha of first and second wheats this coming season.

“We drilled the Dickens after beans in the third week of last September – which is later than we like for seed crops in our heavy ground. But we got an excellent seedbed from two discings and a cultipress and, with enough moisture, it established really well and evenly.

“In the past, there’s always been something in every season to get in the way of performance – dryness, waterlogging, disease, excessive temperatures or lack of sunlight. But last season we had no serious crop stresses at all. This allowed us to push performance from a well-established crop with just the right level and timing of inputs.”

“There was more than enough early yellow rust and Septoria around in the area to be thankful we used  a  fluquinconazole seed treatment at T(-1),” pointed out agronomist, Andrew Wallace working alongside the family’s long-standing Agrii adviser, Eric Horsburgh.

“Our programme of four main fungicide sprays – including SDHIs at T1 and T2 – coupled with generally low disease pressures meant we kept plenty of green leaf throughout the season to support the average 820 ears/m2 and 36 grains/ear we recorded in July. Aiming for 17t/ha at 11% protein, we applied 310 kg/ha of N in four splits to balance total N-Mins of 140 kg/ha, and complemented it with a robust, little and often PGR programme from T0.

“An autumn dose of Nutriphyte PGA to promote rooting ensured the most efficient nutrient uptake,” he continued. “This enabled us to apply the extra foliar manganese, copper, zinc, boron and magnesium the crop needed strictly on the basis of tissue analyses ahead of each spray timing As well as the tremendous yield, the value of this prescriptive nutrition was clear in a bushel weight of fully 82 kg/hl.”

Within RB209 the Beal Farm team could have pushed nitrogen applications even higher. But their desire to avoid extra lodging risk in a thick, well-tillered stand with plenty of residual fertility from the previous bean crop persuaded them to err on the side of caution. Which was just as well as an area in a pronounced dip in the field took some careful lifting with the combine at harvest.

Harvesting Dickens

Harvesting Dickens

“Mind you, the yield meter was running over 23 t/ha at this point and our tracked New Holland 9070 was crawling along at less than 1.5 km/hr to cope with the grain output,” noted Rod. “So it wasn’t a problem.

“The field has a history of high yields, but we’d never seen these sort of peaks before. Indeed, one of our independent adjudicators, Rob Forrest who was with me on the combine at the time had to take a picture of the yield monitor to prove his eyes weren’t deceiving him!”

Alongside variety and season, Rod Smith has no doubt that the success of their Dickens and what he is confident will be another new record average wheat yield for the farm as a whole is down to dedication of the entire Beal team.

Working closely with their agronomists, he stresses that Alan Fairbairn, Stuart Ord and Stephen Pringle are invaluable in coaxing the very most out of unforgiving soils with heavy machinery in fields in which the ditches can’t run at high tide.

Soil management is a particular focus for everyone, with extensive use of tracks, careful equipment set up and operation, effective sub-soiling, rotational ploughing, thorough straw incorporation and the addition of 500 t of muck annually in a barley straw swap with neighbours key ingredients.

What’s more, Rod and his team are intent on making further improvements at every opportunity. Amongst other things, they’re looking to enhance their existing soil mapping and variable P & K applications with SoilQuest conductivity scanning and, with it, both variable seed rates and variable N.

“Over the years we’ve developed a cropping system that suits our ground and conditions well,” concluded Rod Smith. “We’ve found producing quality Master Seeds crops with integrated Agrii agronomy invaluable in helping us maximise wheat performance and profitability.

“With it we look forward to Northumberland taking what we firmly believe to be its rightful place in Guinness Book of Records once our results are fully scrutinised. But we certainly won’t be resting on our laurels. We can see plenty of room for further improvement and are keen to continuing pushing our performance to the greatest commercial effect in the years to come.”

World Wheat Record – Dickens Crop Summary

  • 330 seeds/m2 (185 kg/ha) with fluquinconazole at T(-1) sown on September 22
  • 300 kg/ha each of TSP and MOP after variable P&K to even-up soil indices
  • Post-em AMG and broad-leaf herbicide + insecticide + Nutriphyte PGA
  • 310 kg/ha total N plus balancing S (on top of 140 kg/ha available N from the soil)
  • Four nitrogen fertiliser splits, two of stabilised urea
  • Four main fungicide sprays – including SDHIs at T1 & T2.
  • Little and often four spray PGR programme from T0
  • Foliar Mn, Cu, Zn, B and Mg strictly to tissue analyses
  • 820 ears/m2 and 36 grains/ear in July
  • 16.52 t/ha dry yield at 82 kg/hl specific weight