May 3, 2016
Raising the Quality Wheat Bar in Dorset
Together, the Moderski family’s KAM Farming and Yuill Farms almost equalled Rod Smith’s world wheat record with a 16.39 t/ha wheat crop at Friar Waddon just outside Weymouth last year. Not only this, but the entire 12.2 ha field of late October-sown Skyfall made full milling specification. Even more impressively, at an input cost of less than £35/t, it earned a gross margin comfortably over £1500/ha.
Having taken a fresh, thoroughly integrated grip on the agronomy by moving to Agrii in 2014, a switch was made from mainly feed to 100% milling varieties. At the same time, a wheat average of 10 t/ha was targeted. Unsurprisingly then, the 11.1 t/ha averaged across 120 ha of Skyfall and Crusoe last harvest – by far the best in 28 years of contract-farming the 570 ha holding – has led the arable performance sights to be seriously raised.
With a mixture of two thirds feed and one third milling wheats averaging around 9.5t/ha, winter rape 3.7 t/ha and spring barley 6 t/ha from a range of chalk and clay cap to very heavy wet clay ground, Kris, his wife Ann, son Mark and their Yuill Farms’ principals were by no means unhappy with the arable performance. But they were convinced they could do better – and, indeed, needed to with mounting market pressures.
So they re-organised their crop management completely, bringing-in an Agrii team led by agronomist Todd Jex and seed manager, Dorian Jones.
“Things weren’t going at all badly, but we felt there was plenty of room for improvement,” recalled Kris. “Particularly Mark, as he took on responsibility for the arable crops and sought to apply the latest technologies and agronomic understanding to improve performance in the face some serious issues with resistant ryegrass.
“The past 18 months have been a revelation,” he said. “Todd and Mark walk the fields together every week, decide what each of the crops need and the inputs they agree upon arrive the following day for the most timely crop management. They work closely with Dorian to select varieties best suited to the conditions and requirements, and are supported by what has to be the best R&D team in the business.
“The results speak for themselves. Yes, the weather was in our favour last year. Even so, I have to say we were overwhelmed by the wheat yields; especially so following the move to milling varieties alone. The winter OSR yields were encouragingly up at an average 4 t/ha too. As were the spring barleys at 7.4 t/ha.”
As important to the Moderskis as last year’s record harvest was the fact that, at 12.35 t/ha, Yuill Farms’ milling wheats on heavy clay were the best performing in this category across Agrii’s entire Maximising Arable Performance (MAP) benchmarking group of 70+ southern county growers.
“This really shows we’re getting things right,” stressed Mark. “We’re receiving just the advice and support we want. With the sort of yielding ability and Septoria resistance the best Group 1 varieties have these days, switching entirely to milling wheats has proved an excellent decision. As has delaying the wheat drilling until late September at the earliest to reduce ryegrass, disease and BYDV control pressures; and employing the particular micro-nutrient programme that has given such good results in local Agrii trials.
“The extra information we’re getting from the company’s research as well as their benchmarking is invaluable too,” he continued. “Having had the whole farm SoilQuest mapped in the past year we’re also making great progress in improving the precision of P&K applications and liming. Variable rate nitrogen using satellite imagery was extremely useful last season, reducing fertiliser usage, evening-up crops and allowing us to make the most of the FYM and slurry from the dairy herd.
“What’s really made the difference, though, is putting all these elements together with the best possible co-ordination in a way which suits the ground and equipment.
“The past two years have been a real eye-opener in so many ways, “Kris Moderski concluded. “I see no reason why we can’t target a good 11t/ha on a regular basis from the milling wheats these days.”
Top-Performing Yuill Farms Milling Wheat – Vital Statistics
- 2 ha of Skyfall on good wheat ground
- Sown at 350 seeds/m2 on October 27 after forage maize
- Pre- and post-em herbicide programme
- Four fungicide sprays and PGR;
- 260 kg/ha of solid N plus 30kg/ha liquid Protol
- Specialist trace element regime
- Total input costs – including seed, insecticides and adjuvants – £543/ha
- Over-the-weighbridge yield – 16.39 t/ha of full specification milling wheat
- Unit input costs – £33.12/tonne
- Gross margin with milling wheat at £138/t – £1,719/ha.