Northern harvest surprise

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Despite the frustrations facing many northern growers as crops remain standing in fields, where crops have been harvested, there have been some pretty surprising results. For Craig Norrie, farm manager at Banchory Farm, Kirkcaldy, of JM Cochran Ltd, one of his fields of Zulu winter wheat has yielded 16t/ha at 17.8% moisture, off what he describes as his most ‘awkward field’.

“Whilst the crop has not been over a weighbridge, the local John Deere dealership has verified the yield,” he says.

Harvested over a 2 day period, starting on the evening on 30th August and finishing on 31st August using a John Deere T660i combine, Mr Norrie says he was really surprised when he saw the combine meter hitting the 16t/ha mark.

“This particular 42ha field is north facing, and we don’t usually expect to get our best yields off it, but the medium to heavy soils held onto the moisture back in the spring, and obviously the crop did not sacrifice any yield potential as a result of this.”

“The remaining 40ha’s of Zulu grown across two fields also yielded well, the field after oilseed rape came off at 15t/ha whilst the field drilled behind potatoes, yielded 14t/ha.”

At every level the crop has been superb, he says. “When I started going through the field with the combine I thought that there was something wrong as I was struggling to get through it and was thinking that I needed to ring the dealer, but in fact it was just down to the volume of straw!”

“The bushel weight has also been high, we would expect somewhere in the 70’s but this was way up in the 80’s –so produced a really bold sample.”

Highest yields

The 16t/ha crop of Zulu, drilled in the last week of September after OSR, at a seed rate of 190kgs/ha, established well, and continued to do well through to harvest, despite the difficult season.

Inputs were fairly standard he explains, adding that they were kept the same across all of the wheat, so the differences in yield didn’t come from that. “I am a stickler for ensuring that fungicides go on at the right time, so all three crops received a standard fungicide programme at the right timing”

“Soils are mapped so that variable rate P, K and lime can be applied. Nitrogen was applied as 46% urea, in three splits totalling 410kg/ha.”

Mr Norrie has always grown wheat for the distilling market, and has done very well in the past with Robigus. In fact, it was Zulu’s Robigus parentage that attracted him to the variety last year.

“As Robigus had done so well on the farm, we were looking to replace it with a variety that contained some Robigus genetics but with better disease resistance and improved yields, and this is exactly what Zulu offers.”

Breeders of Zulu, Limagrain UK, recognise that Zulu has a weakness for yellow rust, but with an appropriately timed protectant fungicide programme this should not be a problem; such as that used by Mr Norrie, who has not had any issues with the disease.

Douglas Bonn of Nickerson believes that Zulu is a credible choice for the northern grower looking to service the distilling market, and has seen the variety do well this season.   “In Scotland, the variety matures earlier than the AHDB Recommended List suggests and as the variety has a low vernalisation requirement similar to Claire is suitable for drilling up to the end of February.”

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.