Mark Stubbs has achieved gold in the ADAS Yield Enhancement Network Cereals competition for a crop of LG Skyscraper wheat which yielded 16.6 tonnes per hectare. It’s the second time that Mark has won the award, following a 16.3-tonne crop of KWS Siskin in 2019.
He puts his success down to attention to detail, with delayed drilling, widespread use of farmyard manures and a move away from ploughing. Mark farms 688 hectares across two Lincolnshire sites, with wheat being the main crop, followed in the rotation by oilseed rape and spring barley.
The 120-hectare block on the Lincolnshire Wolds is heavy clay, on which Mark has grown Skyscraper for several years. He says that he has always been pleased with the yields, averaging 10.5 tonnes over this period and that grain quality has been consistently good.
The crop last year followed oilseed rape, which was allowed to green up following harvest to act as a catch crop. Cultivations comprised a tine and disc cultivator, with a packer, followed by a second pass with a disc cultivator. Drilling was delayed by a week due to wet weather, going in on the 11th of November at a rate of 250kg per hectare, with the aim of plant populators of 275 plants per m2.
Mark aims to produce a thick, competitive crop that has immediate access to nutrients so that it can get away strongly and outcompete any blackgrass.
“LG Skyscraper has a fairly vigorous growth habit once it germinates, so I don’t worry about sowing it later, as I might with some other varieties,” he said.
Manures are applied to stubble and incorporated within six hours. This has seen soil organic matter rise from an index of 2 to 10, despite the acidic, calciferous soils. “We find that the nutrition contained in the manures kicks in early on, giving the crop a good start.”
For the Gold-winning crop, liquid nitrogen (225N 10%S) was applied in three doses, four weeks apart, receiving an average of 210kg per hectare, excluding the manures. This little and often approach along with in-season monitoring allows him to fine-tune requirements.
“The variety has a weaker rating for Septoria (4.9), so it is important to tackle this early which means we are not chasing disease through this season, and in doing so we have never had too much of a problem,” he said. “I don’t cut corners in terms of timing but will alter products according to the weather and disease pressure at the time.”
“Despite being slightly taller-strawed, lodging in LG Skyscraper has never been an issue even on the more fertile Wold soils, but we use PGR’s as and when needed, to support the crop we have in the ground.”
“As last year’s crop was grown on the March site with heavier soils, crop emergence and growth were slower, and coupled with late drilling, the crop didn’t reach a leggy stage, so a robust T1 was used which proved sufficient to regulate the crop.”
A T0 was also applied but with the aim of manipulating the plant and ensuring it was healthy. A biostimulant was also applied to boost the plant’s natural defences.
The Skyscraper crop was harvested on the 10th of August, early for such a late-drilled crop. “It literally turned overnight, it wasn’t ripe when we checked it two days before, so I think we caught it just in time.”
He concluded that the YEN report is useful and highlights where further attention is needed. “We’re using YEN where we can to improve the farm.”