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Congratulations to Richard Budd, Stevens Farm YEN Awards – Tristan Gibbs

Congratulations to Richard Budd, Stevens Farm, for his recent 2023 ADAS YEN (Yield Enhancement Network) awards – Highest Winter Wheat yield for the South East, Highest potential wheat yield for the South East, Best Milling Quality Award for his Crusoe crop, 2nd Highest OSR yield in the UK. This has been Richard’s 6th year using ADAS’s YEN competition to gather crop information that allows him to scrutinise the past year’s crop husbandry and environmental factors, helping to focus on improvements for the next year. As the saying goes ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’.

The YEN reports have been an invaluable source of data gathered year upon year allowing us to see patterns to act upon and some of which totally out of your control; some of which maybe areas where the crop can be pushed to yield more or there could be a ‘leaky barrel’ situation where lost yield can be minimised by a certain factor, such as different crop nutrition or improved light and water capture to avoid a source limited crop.

In the YEN report Richard and I are able to assess yield components such as TGW, grains/ear, grains/m2, spikelets/ear and ear number/m2; by interpreting these results we can judge the success of choices made with seed rates, nitrogen timings and fungicide/PGR use, along with what extend external factors played such as the weather and question what could we do differently with husbandry to improve the outcome next time round.

Grain nutrient sample results form part of the report, which I think improve insights into crop requirement as opposed to solely relying on transient tissue tests which can fluctuate on a daily basis, the outcome being you could be chasing unnecessary foliar micronutrient applications. Sampling the nutrient content in the grain allows us to see any significant short falls in nutrient supply the crop may have experienced during the growing season, if you see this on multiple crops over multiple years you have the confidence to justify the spend to alter nutrient input. The recent higher costs of nitrogen bring into focus Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE), one aspect of the report details how efficiently the crop converts soil nitrogen and synthetic nitrogen into grain nitrogen; did this result in the expected yield and milling qualities and therefore how accurate was our nitrogen application for that crop yield, farm, soil type and season.

Some of the YEN messages over the years and ones Richard is particularly interested to implement, are pushing for high biomass crops to try and translate into high harvest indexes and yield. Another is how important it is to correct your soil drainage (low disturbance subsoiling, mole-ploughing, land drains) if necessary to allow sufficient root depth for later season water acquisition. Prolonging green leaf area as long as possible in wheat up until at least milky ripe stage. ADAS YEN thresholds to work towards such as plant, tiller, ear, spikelet and grains/m2. Compaction, drilling dates, how much light are you intercepting, varietal choice and therefore fungicide choice, correct nitrogen rates, to name a few.

Getting these factors right sets you up to thrive when favourable environmental conditions prevail allowing the crop to perform to its highest genetic potential, we wish each year for a warm/dry winter, cool spring and bright summer to work in our favour. Pushing yields on farm, testing and measuring new ideas against the farm standard with long term farmer commitment is the aim and the ADAS network is open for all interested to participate in.

Both Richard and I are always learning through this process and we will continue to generate new ideas to trial on farm to test new and existing ideas.