Bishop Burton rise to the challenge

Last year’s winner’s Easton & Otley College claimed second place and Harper Adams University came third.

Teams from Newcastle University, The Royal Agricultural University, Harper Adams University, Bishop Burton College, Risheholme College and Easton & Otley College qualified in a competitive process for the Challenge, and were subsequently each allocated a plot at the Cereals site at Chrishall Grange Farm in Cambridge for which they have had complete responsibility over since February through to the Cereals Event.

The team of three from Bishop Burton College who are studying for a Foundation degree in Agriculture secured their win by an attention to detail across all elements of the competition. The team goes away with a trophy and £1000 prize money to share between the team members plus an additional £500 for the College.

Team captain Rhys Jones along with team members, Harry Torn and Shane Hardgrave, were thrilled with their win. “We didn’t know much about peas as a team initially so we had to source information from reference texts such as the PGRO Agronomy Guide, to gleaning information from the web as well as talking to our lecturers. We then pooled all of this information and agreed the recommendations as a team- and it obviously worked – we are really pleased with how the peas look,” says Rhys.

“It is the first time that peas have been grown in the seven years that the Cereals Challenge has been running, in recognition of the UN declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses, so we at the PGRO were delighted to be involved and support the Challenge,” says Roger Vickers, CEO of the PGRO.

Judged by Keith Norman, technical director at Velcourt, Dick Neale, technical manager of Hutchinsons, and Roger Vickers and Steve Belcher from the PGRO, the final results are based on  each team’s agronomic recommendations (evaluating their appropriateness and timeliness for each recommendation), input cost management, estimated crop yield and the quality, as well as harvesting advice.  

Dick Neale puts down the teams win to an attention to detail across every area of their programme. “The team chose a profitable variety, the marrowfat Sakura from the start, and their herbicide, fungicide, insecticide and nutritional recommendations were well thought through and justified- and getting this right on paper was translated into how well the plot looked,” says Dick Neale.
Keith Norman agrees and says that the team got it right from the start.” The crop established well, the seed rate was kept at its correct rate of 74seeds/m² and the team got the early nutrition right, which on the light soils of Crishall Grange is crucial.”

Set up as a joint initiative between Hutchinsons and Velcourt to offer an insight into careers in agronomy or farm management, the Challenge has proved a success in its seven year history with 5 students joining Hutchinsons successful Agronomy Foundation Training Programme, whilst Velcourt has employed 6 students as farm managers.

Jacqueline Tilney, part of this year’s Easton & Otley team, says that the Challenge has really piqued her interest in agronomy as a career. “I’ve had an interest in agronomy but being part of the Challenge has really confirmed this, as I’ve had a chance to see first-hand how decisions on inputs and crop management can have such an impact on the crop -  and that’s fascinating.”