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Two world record crops and the Innovator of the Year Award were celebrated at this year's Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) conference, held at Peterborough. Yield Enhancement Network celebrates 10th anniversary

Two world record crops and the Innovator of the Year Award were celebrated at this year’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) conference, held at Peterborough.

Almost 200 delegates attended the network’s 10th anniversary event – including dozens of farmers who have seen yields and productivity increase since the YEN was established a decade ago to develop a new way of working for the industry.

Bringing together farmers, advisers, scientists and commercial organisations to learn by sharing, the YEN approach includes knowledge exchange, detailed crop post-mortems and benchmarking, explained network director and co-founder Roger Sylvester-Bradley.

It’s 10th harvest saw world record crops of winter wheat (17.96t/ha) and barley (16.2t/ha) grown on Tim Lamyman’s farm at Worlaby, Lincolnshire. The approach has proved so attractive that YENs have now been initiated in Canada and the USA.

The YEN Innovator of the Year Award was presented to Russ McKenzie of DJ Tebbit, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, for his commitment, innovative ideas, use of trials and analysis for yield enhancement.

Twin challenges

For the past 10 years, YEN has studied yields of wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape, peas beans and recently linseed. It has also recently ventured to enhance nutritional efficiency (YEN Nutrition) and reduce carbon intensities of cropping (YEN Zero).

The UK-based YEN has now accumulated over 5,000 crop yields with over a million explanatory data items. This puts the YEN in a unique position to analyse the complexities of meeting the urgent twin challenges of raising farm productivity in the UK and ensuring its sustainability.

The YEN has been supported and funded almost entirely by the industry itself through efforts of farmers and their advisors, sponsorship from their support industry and levies – enabling scientists to organise the reports, collate the data, and deduce the most telling conclusions.

Professor Sylvester-Bradley said the 2022 season had proved challenging – not only to farmers, with massively increased input costs, record heat, and prolonged drought, but also to scientists in explaining how growers could still produce such high yields.

Sharing lessons

For the first time, this year many farms managed to exceed their maximum theoretical potential yields – despite a difficult season by ongoing lack of rain and record-breaking high temperatures during the summer.

Prof Sylvester-Bradley said: “Either the farms are not understanding how good their soils are, or our science is too pessimistic about how good our potential yields are.”

Either way, 2022 had been a good year for sharing lessons about yield prospects in the UK, he added.

Speaking at the conference, ADAS crop physiologist Pete Berry said one of the main lessons was the “farm factor” – the extent to which farms differ. High-performing farms monitored their performance and paid attention to detail – characteristics other farms could also adopt.

The YEN encourages farmers to share data to benchmark their crop performance against peers, enabling insights to be gained and shared by the community. In turn, this enables growers and scientists to work together to improve yields.

ADAS crop physiologist Sarah Kendall said: “Attention now turns to how YEN develops into the future.

“We want to ensure it remains relevant and allows members to use the approach at the whole farm as well as field level.

“Identifying the funding mechanisms to achieve this will be vital.”

For more on record-breaking cereal yields, click here.

Harvest 2022 results

Best wheat, rye or triticale yield

Gold: 17.96t/ha – Tim Lamyman, Lincolnshire, supported by Frontier

Silver: 16.7t/ha – Mark Stubbs, Lincolnshire, sponsored by Hutchinsons

Bronze: 16.1t/ha  – Vagn Lundsteen, Zealand, Denmark, independent entry

Best % of potential wheat, rye or triticale yield

Gold: Ashley Jones, Cornwall, sponsored by Limagrain 132% of 11.7t/ha

Silver: Mark Stubbs, Lincolnshire, sponsored by Hutchinsons 116% of 14.4t/ha

Bronze: James Loder-Symonds, Kent, sponsored by Bayer 106% of 12.2t/ha

Milling wheat protein yield & baking quality awards, sponsored by UK Flour Millers

Gold: Chris Eglington, Norfolk,  sponsored by AHDB

Silver: Paul Cornwell, Suffolk,  independent entry

Bronze: Richard Budd, Kent,  sponsored by BASF