With a winter barley world yield record already in the bag this harvest, Lincolnshire grower Tim Lamyman had hopes of achieving a double by taking the world wheat yield record too when he put the combine into a crop of DSV Theodore winter wheat on August 18 – the first of the farm’s harvest 2021 wheat crop.
In the end it was not to be, with the seed crop delivering a mighty 15 tonnes per hectare at 17% moisture but some way shy of the 17.4t/ha world record yield held by New Zealander Eric Watson.
The winter barley record was achieved with a crop of two-row KWS Tardis, which gave a yield of 14.2t/ha at 14.97% moisture content, beating the existing record of 13.8t/ha, also set in New Zealand.
The head count for the crop was between 880 and 1,150 heads/sq.m and the hectolitre weight was 64.
It is fair to say that Mr Lamy man’s quest for world record yields at Worlaby, high up on the Lincolnshire Wolds, divides opinion, with many growers considering his high input approach as one belonging to another era.
But behind the quest for jaw-dropping yields lies an attention to detail and a desire to test the limits of agronomy from which we can all learn.
The Tardis was one of three barley varieties grown as seed crops on the farm for harvest 2021.
KWS Hawking delivered an average yield of 9.5t/ha; Bolton 10.9t/ha and two fields of Tardis produced yields of 11.5t/ha and 14.2t/ha.
The record yield was verified by ADAS at 14.97% moisture content.
The crop was drilled on October 17, 2020, at a seed rate of 200kg/ha with a seed thousand grain weight of 55 and was not without its challenges, says Mr Lamyman.
“About 35% of it was laid because it was so thick; there were between 880 and 1,150 heads/ sq.m,” he says.
The variety’s good disease resistance contributed significantly to its performance, he believes.
“It’s a really clean variety.
It’s one of the cleanest two-row winter barley varieties I’ve grown on the farm. It was green up until mid-July.”
Disease resistance The Tardis received a compre hensive fungicide programme, despite its disease scores, with Mr Lamyman of the view that varieties with robust disease resistance can still deliver good responses to fungicides.
He is also convinced that PGR inputs can be better targeted, with the Tardis receiving three applications of Moddus plus chlormequat at T0 and ethephon at T1.
The fungicide programme comprised a ‘cheap and cheerful’ T0 of prothioconazole + PGR + NHK Delta, the latter applied to boost root structure.
T1 saw an SDHI+strobilurin co-formulation + azole + PGR + Delta+TipTop applied promptly at GS31.T2 comprised an SDHI + PGR + XStress + Calflux + TipTop and there was a T3 ear wash of prothioconazole+azoxystrobin.
Both winter wheat and winter barley also received two autumn applications of Delta.
Nitrogen applications to the barley totalled 250kg N/ha, applied as ammonium nitrate, in four splits.
For his wheat world record yield attempt Mr Lamyman selected Stigg cross Tuxedo variety DSV Theodore based on observations made during last year of the its ability to set grain.
He says: “Theodore is the most phenomenal grain setter I’ve ever seen.
“In the florets you usually see three, sometimes four grains.
In these ears there are six grains across some of the florets.
What excited me about the variety is the fact that most [disease resistant] varieties don’t seem to be able to top out on yield, but Theodore has potential to throw a higher yield if you put in a higher input because it is throwing five or six grains across the middle floret.
On some ears there are over 100 grain sites.”
Mr Lamyman readily admits he relishes a challenge and furthermore he likes to try and do things differently.
But he also dedicates a lot of time to visiting as many variety trials as possible and poring over results with the aim of ensuring any variety he selects is the best possible match for the situation in which it will be planted.
Yield point “I’m fastidious about picking a variety for a certain time and how it grows.
For me, Theodore has got one high yield point – [drilled] from September 20 to before November 1 it is very close on heavy land or better bodied land to all the other varieties.
“I grew it last year and had 9.7-14t/ha, which gave me the idea there was potential in a decent growing season, and we could get it up to over 16t/ha, which is where I would like to see it, with the inputs put behind it.
“Last year it was grown as a standard seed crop on 220kg N/ha and a standard fungicide regime.
“With Theodore, the fungicide regime needs centring in the second half of the season to get the specific weight up.
If it is grown cheaply, people won’t give it a T4 and all the bits and pieces we specialise in here to get spec weights up, when spec weight is lower.
Seed rate “I overview absolutely everything.
I start by picking the variety, working out from any trials data I can get hold of where I need to grow it.
Seed rate is a big issue and one thing that is certain is Theodore needs the Grafton treatment – it needs a higher seed rate, it is not a high tillerer.
That’s what I learned last year; in the thin stuff where we were doing 9.7t/ha it just didn’t have enough heads.
Because it is a really clean variety stacking them in is not a problem.”
This harvest’s Theodore was drilled on September 30 at a seed rate of 250kg/ha (aiming for a minimum of 450 seeds sq.m), compared to the farm’s more normal 200-210kg/ha for winter wheat.
And while Mr Lamyman is clearly not short of ideas on how to get the best out of his crops, the record yield attempts have been a team effort, involving Bionature’s Tom Robinson; Ben Mead, David Robinson and Jeremy Nicholson from Frontier, Tim’s son Robert Lamyman and Andrew Smooker and Colin Mountford-Smith of BASF.
There have been regular agronomy meetings which, says Mr Nicholson, have been ‘as much about discussing strategy and how we can eke out the next little bit of yield and performance as they have been about work on the crop.’
Key to the approach has been the ambition to create the ‘ideal’ biomass and then keep that biomass green for as long as possible – the green leaf area duration or GLAD concept – to utilise as much sunlight as possible.
Mr Nicholson says: “Development of this enormous root system sees us through in terms of water capture.
It’s about green leaf area duration – building biomass and converting it to yield.”
Mr Smooker adds: “There are numbers that you can start to collect that give you good indications.
We’ve spent time looking at ears/sq.m and the grain sites on the ears.
Through the year there are numbers that send you away with a bit of a grin on your face, but you are never quite certain how it is going to end up.”
Before the crop of Theodore was drilled, discussions were focused on what the numbers for the three key components of yield – ears/sq.m; grains per ear; thousand grain weight – should look like.
Mr Nicholson says: “We start with the number of ears we want to achieve and work back.
We know we wanted 650 ears/sq.m.
We first of all build them and then we need to retain them, which is easier said than done.
Strategy “It’s done by marrying the nutritional input with the growth regulation strategy with the stay greener fungicide programme.
“It’s a very detailed relationship between those things.
There is some new and novel thinking going on here around the manipulation of tillers through growth regulation.
The growth regulator input is along similar lines to how Tim manages the nitrogen – it’s a little and often approach.”
This stems from the crop momentum approach originating within the Yield Enhancement Network project, which is based on the premise that it is better for a crop to continue to build biomass rather than building – stopping – restarting.
Mr Nicholson says: “As growth regulator products are applied that can easily happen.
But by adopting a little and often PGR approach, crop momentum is, in theory, maintained.”
Crop nutrition is an important part of the equation, with several products from the Bionature liquid crop nutrition range deployed (see panel, opposite).
The Theodore received 350kg/ ha N applied as AN plus 85-90kg/ ha sulphur.
Magnesium was also applied as a foliar feed through to the T3 fungicide spray timing.