A spring of high disease pressure has proved a test for the six teams of students participating in this year’s Cereals Challenge.

(Original article by Georgina Haigh, Farmers Guardian)


Organised by Hutchinsons and Velcourt, the Cereals Challenge plots are based on Chrishall Grange farm in Cambridgeshire, the site of the 2014 Cereals event.
Six plots of Santiago winter wheat were officially handed over to the student teams in February to manage and market until the final judging takes place at Cereals.
Andrew Mortimer of Velcourt, who manages operations on the cereal plots for the students, says disease threats have been challenging.

“So far this spring the excellent growing conditions and very challenging disease threats from rust and septoria, have meant all the plots have needed close attention and care to ensure they are kept disease-free and standing as the crops head towards flag leaf emergence.


“It is very interesting to see the various approaches taken by individual teams as all of them have been very different. No doubt some will work better than others, but this is why this is such a valuable learning experience for the students as they get to see and discuss the results of their own recommendations.”

Captain of the Harper Adams University team Rory Galloway says although their plot was initially patchy, it is now well-tillered.
He says: “So far we are happy with the way the crop is performing. We have managed to get a well-tillered, disease-free crop coming up to T2 which is what we were aiming for.”


Using RB209 to calculate nitrogen recommendations, the team worked out it should apply 240kg/ha to the plot. But, because the plot is in a nitrate vulnerable zone, the maximum which could be applied was 220kg/ha for an 8t/ha (3.3t/acre) crop.
The Harper Adams team has already sold 60 per cent of its estimated yield at the November 2014 LIFFE price back in April when the Ukraine crisis caused the UK wheat price to rise.


The mild February weather saw the Royal Agricultural University team, which also used RB209, applying some early nitrogen.
Team leader Annabel Hamilton says: “We modified our planned T1 sprays as the disease threat was lower than we had thought, but we had to up our PGR input to strengthen the stems and prevent any later lodging”
The RAU team is yet to sell any of its predicted yield and says it is waiting for the market to improve as some grain producing regions are experiencing harsh growing conditions.


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