As featured in Arable Farming Magazine
YEN adapts to difficult season
by Arable Farming November / December 2020 issue
Despite the challenging season, entries for the Yield Enhancement Network competition remained strong in 2019/2020, and new categories were added in response to the tough situation. Alice Dyer reports.
Seasons like that of 2019/2020, although challenging, present opportunities to learn more about crop behaviour and resilience.
The true impact on yields will be revealed during the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) Awards at The CropTec Show.
Dr Sarah Kendall, ADAS crop physiologist says: “Many crops, particularly oilseed rape, had their roots sitting in cold wet soils over winter so later rooting must have been severely affected. Then crops faced a really dry spell in April and May so overall, weather couldn’t have been conducive to achieving really high yields.
“However, we have the potential to learn more from these challenging seasons than straightforward ones. YEN has the ability to bring positives from a difficult season through the better understanding of yields that comes from reflecting across the broad data set,” says Dr Kendall.
With a lot less winter cereals around, YEN added a spring-drilled cereals category to compare success from drillings after February 1.
“Late drillings gave us a reason to look into the potential yield of spring crops and how this compares to a winter crop. We’ve developed a spring cereal yield potential model for growers that have entered spring drilled crops, so they can now explore more closely how their yields compare with potential.
Find out more
The YEN Awards will take place on November 25 at 7pm online at The CropTec Show.
To register for free, visit: croptecshow.com
Creating a benchmark for nutrients
This year saw the launch of the YEN Nutrition service, which includes grain analysis and grain nutrient benchmarking.
More than 120 members registered for YEN Nutrition to better understand their crops’ nutrition through grain analysis.
Dr Sarah Kendall says: “The network was set up to address problems with crop nutrition. YEN Nutrition has very much come out of the YEN’s findings that more than three quarters of cereal crops are deficient in at least one nutrient.”
Understanding oilseed rape establishment
With the current challenges to oilseed rape establishment, the 2020/2021 Oilseed YEN is introducing a new focus.
Growers are entering data on their crops’ establishment in a ‘beauty contest’ to explore the most effective establishment practices.
Dr Sarah Kendall says: “The main concern is no longer who can achieve the highest yield, and while there are still growers who are doing well, for many it’s about how to successfully establish OSR and ensure it won’t go backwards in spring.”
AHDB has provided funding for ADAS to expand the focus of the Oilseed YEN to look at establishment as well as yield.
Growers will be asked to submit data about their establishment practices, plant populations and cabbage stem flea beetle damage, as well as photos which will be used in the judging process and in an analysis of the data.
“Crops will be judged on plant population, uniformity of establishment and the crop canopy,” says Dr Kendall.
“We want an understanding of all crops – the good, the bad and the ugly.”
There will be three drilling date sections: early drilled (until August 14), standard drilled (August 15-31) and late drilled (September 1 onwards).
By registering now, growers can submit establishment information for all their OSR fields and then select a field for the main YEN competition, for which they will submit further samples and data.
Analysis of data from the Oilseed YEN provided insights into how high yields are achieved in OSR crops. More than 150 yields were analysed from 92 farms that were part of the Oilseed YEN between 2017 and 2019, as part of a study funded by AHDB (see panel, right for results).
How crop management influences greenhouse gas emmissions
YEN has set out plans to explore the impact crop management practices and yields have on greenhouse gas emissions through data collected by the network since 2013.
Dr Daniel Kindred, head of agronomics at ADAS, says they already have all the soil, crop, grain and agronomy information needed to calculate the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of a crop and have been able to run the calculations thanks to funding from the Morley Agricultural Foundation.
Dr Kindred says: “It is something we’ve always wanted to do. Applying these calculations to YEN data, we are seeing wide variations in GHG intensities, from below 200kg of CO2 equivalent per tonne, up to more than 500kg.
“That is a two-and-a-half-fold difference between the best performing crops and the worst.”
So far, the highest yielding crops tend to have the lowest GHG intensities and the lower yielding crops have the higher intensities, says Dr Kindred.
“That’s largely because we don’t see this strong relationship between nitrogen or other inputs being applied, and yield.
“High yields are achieved through good management, attention to detail and good soil management, not because the farmers are plastering huge applications of nitrogen and other inputs.”
The studies so far have also found many examples of where nitrogen and other inputs are high, but yields are low, he adds.
“However, we do still see a relationship where N is applied and it’s driving some variation in GHG intensities. Variation is also driven by cultivation and other inputs, so there is a lot of scope to be able to understand better what is going on there.”
ADAS plans to launch a YEN-Zero network to compare, understand and improve GHG intensities in the same way YEN focuses on yields.
Factors affecting yields
THE main factors affecting yields were found to be:
- Nutrition Soil and seed nutrition analyses highlight the importance of getting the supply of P and Mg right for achieving high yields. There was also
evidence to suggest that using more N splits may be more important than simply applying more N for achieving high yield
- Husbandry High yields were positively associated with lower seed rate, a greater number of fungicide applications, and higher fungicide spend
- Plant physiology High yielding crops set a high number of seeds/sq.m and a high thousand seed weight, a larger total biomass and more seeds per plant
- Weather High yields were associated with cool and bright weather during late spring and early summer, while warm temperatures in December and less rainfall in February were associated with lower yields.