The 2016 Cereals Challenge takes on a new twist as for the first time in its seven year history, six teams from a range of colleges and universities, compete to grow a pea crop of their own choice.
In what is a change from past challenges where all the students grew the same variety of crop, this year, the student teams have been given the opportunity to choose the pea type and variety according to market.
Successful teams from Newcastle University, The Royal Agricultural University, Harper Adams University College, Bishop Burton College, Riseholme and Easton & Otley College qualified in a competitive process against a total of 12 entries to win a place in this year’s Challenge.
Last year’s tightly contested Challenge saw Easton & Otley College take the prize for the second year running, winning a trophy and a prize of £1,000 to share, as well as £500 for the College.
Six plots have been officially handed over to the student teams to grow their crop of peas from drilling through to the final judging during the 2016 Cereals Event at Chrishall Grange farm in Cambridge, the site of the 2014 Cereals event.
The competition will look at each team’s agronomic recommendations (based on appropriateness and timeliness of recommendations), input cost management, estimated crop yield and the quality, as well as the marketing of the crop. The competition will be judged by Keith Norman, technical director at Velcourt, Dick Neale, technical manager of Hutchinsons, Roger Vickers of the PGRO, Claire Domoney from the John Innes Centre, as well as Robert Law, farmer host for the Cereals event.
Teams will need to think about establishment of the crop, which is critical, to the overall gross margin. As real time agronomists, they will need to plan their input and management programmes according to the needs of the crop within the challenges of the season and environment, but also to justify these recommendations with an eye on the final gross margin.
“Their first task following this was to think about drilling dates and rates, as well as any early nutritional recommendations, and to present this information to the audience, “says Andrew Mortimer of Velcourt, who will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots.
Team captain, Jackson Maplethorpe of last year’s runner up, Riseholme College, is feeling confident about this year’s Challenge.” We have chosen to grow a crop of Sakura marrowfat peas which we are planning to drill mid-March at a rate of 315kg/ha and a depth of 5cm. We will roll the soil straight after drilling, and apply our chosen pre-emergence herbicide then as we have learnt that getting the establishment right will be key to producing a quality crop.”
Paul Hobson of Hutchinsons and Nick Shorter of Velcourt who launched the Cereals Challenge to the students underlined the success of the Challenge in offering an insight into careers in agronomy or farm management, and also as an opportunity to meet youngsters looking for a career with either company.
Since the Challenge was launched Hutchinsons has taken on 5 students into their successful Agronomy Foundation Training Programme and Velcourt has employed 6 students as farm managers.