As featured in Arable Farming Magazine
Grain nutrient benchmarking service unveiled
by Arable Farming July 2020
A new initiative said to add an innovative dimension to refining crop nutrition has been launched by ADAS.
Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) Nutrition is a comprehensive grain analysis service which examines all 12 essential crop nutrients for grain, oilseeds and pulses.
Launching for harvest 2020, the analysis will act as a ‘post-mortem’ for each individual farm’s nutrient management package.
The initiative has been launched on the back of YEN, which highlighted that getting crop nutrition right is a major challenge, even for the most innovative growers, says Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley, ADAS head of crop performance.
He says: “Grain analysis is remarkably accurate because if you think of how we sample soil and take a ‘W’ from the field, it’s still only a small proportion of the field. Whereas, when you bring grain into the store and you’re sampling every load, that creates a very good, accurate representative sample of that field.”
However, the programme will not replace soil or tissue testing, but complement it, he says.
“Growers in the UK are generally using soil analysis and some use leaf analysis. Grain analysis doesn’t do the same job, but augments both.
“There are a whole load of questions you can answer with grain analysis that you can’t answer with soil or leaf analysis alone. It’s possible, when combined with soil analysis, to work out whether it’s something to do with soil supply, rooting, seasonal effect or just whether a nutrient spray works.”
The programme will also allow growers to benchmark against other YEN Nutrition participants and create critical thresholds.
“All nutrient levels will be easily compared to levels on other farms, and against a critical threshold if we have one.”
YEN Nutrition results are sent as three separate reports: an offtake report, which arrives post-harvest once samples have been processed and field yields recorded; a benchmarking report, released in autumn, which displays the 12 nutrients in relation to all YEN Nutrition results to judge seasonal effects; and an annual YEN Nutrition review, released to all members in early spring.
Prof Sylvester-Bradley adds: “No other country, as far as I’m aware, is using grain analysis as a diagnosis for crop nutrition, generally. We’ve been finding it really useful as a diagnostic, and that, I think is a global first.”
To find out more, visit: yen.adas.co.uk/projects/yen-nutrition
In the field: David Brightman, Warwickshire
As a YEN member, Warwickshire arable farmer David Brightman has been receiving N nutrient data for his crops since 2016 and, as a result, has completely revised his nitrogen management plan.
He says: “YEN and commercial testing results have led to what I think will be a more appropriate range of nitrogen for the milling wheat crops I grow for Warburtons. I’ve also looked at P and K nutrition, but I think there’s quite a lot more to find out about potash in particular.”
Mr Brightman says he found comparing his results with the benchmark useful to see where seasonal influence is involved.
“I think that’s vital because every season is different, and while benchmarking and critical values have come from long-term research and are fairly well established, they don’t tell you much about what happened in a particular season, but comparing with others gives you an idea if you’re on target.”
Grain analysis has been used in the Yield Enhancement Network for four seasons across more than 900 crops. Over the years, results have shown 74% of crops were deficient in at least one nutrient, while nearly half were deficient in more.
Prof Sylvester-Bradley says: “This shows we’re still not getting the comprehensive challenge of these 12 nutrients right and there’s definitely scope to improve our knowledge.”
Just by having the knowledge of P and K offtakes, Prof Sylvester-Bradley estimates growers could save about £60 per 10-hectare field. If all nutrients were optimised, he estimates the value is more than £500/field on average.
“If we can get nutrient levels right, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, there will be major environmental benefits as well,” he adds.