Fertiliser helps grower to claim record wheat yield

Northumberland grower Rod Smith is claiming a new world wheat yield record of 16.52t/ha due partly to his decision to use a stabilised urea fertiliser that is proving its worth in the north of England and Scotland.
Northumberland grower Rod Smith is claiming a new world wheat yield record of 16.52t/ha due partly to his decision to use a stabilised urea fertiliser that is proving its worth in the north of England and Scotland.
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Northumberland grower Rod Smith is claiming a new world wheat yield record of 16.52t/ha due partly to his decision to use a stabilised urea fertiliser that is proving its worth in the North of England and Scotland.

Mr Smith applied 310kg/ha of nitrogen to the bumper crop, of which more than half was supplied by Alzon 46, a high quality, slow-release urea granule.

The total application was based on a target crop yield of 17t/ha, soil testing and previous cropping.

“We could have applied more, but were a bit wary as the crop was following winter beans and we didn’t want to risk lodging,” said Mr Smith.

The record-breaking crop of Dickens, grown at JE Smith’s Beal Farm, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, benefitted from an excellent growing season with plenty of sunshine and no crop stress, he notes.

“However, there’s no doubt that the fertiliser programme, which we are still in the process of tweaking, contributed a lot to yield,” says Mr Smith.

The 11ha crop, which also received four fungicide and growth regulator sprays, if confirmed will easily beat the current official 15.64t/ha Guinness Book of Records crop grown by New Zealand farmer Mike Solari.

The main nitrogen programme started with Piamon, a granulated 33:30 compound of nitrogen and sulphur manufactured in Germany by SKW Piesteritz, which supplied 80kg/ha of N at around GS23.

Alzon 46, also manufactured by SKW Piesteritz, followed in two splits at GS30 and 31/32 in a 60:40 split.

“Although Alzon is a 46%N stabilised urea that reduces leaching and volatilisation we played extra safe by applying two splits,” said Mr Smith.

The nitrogen programme was topped off with 60kg of late-applied ammonium nitrate.

Alzon quality and spreadability was second to none.

Mr Smith added: “We have 36m tramlines and found Alzon spread very accurately indeed, as reflected in the final yield.”

The fertiliser programme for the record crop largely reflected on-farm practice, apart from the final top up.

All Beal Farm’s wheat crops received 80kg/ha of N as Piamon and 170kg of N as Alzon, says David Cairns of McCreath Simpson and Prentice, which markets Alzon and Piamon on behalf of Gleadell Agriculture in the north of England and Scotland.

“The average yield exceeded 14t/ha, about 2t/ha above the area average. Rod doesn’t stint on inputs where crops justify them.”

Mr Cairns says Alzon is gaining in popularity as confidence in the product grows.

“Alzon’s main advantage over conventional nitrogen fertilisers is that it contains a nitrification inhibitor, which greatly reduces losses from leaching or volatilisation – the product provides a steady stream of nitrogen to the crop rather than in one big hit.

“Alzon can be applied early and still feed plants through to flag leaf and beyond, critical in today’s high-yielding crops.”

This can be achieved with fewer applications – a total of three rather than four passes were made on the wheats at Beal Farm this year.

“The more we see of it, the more confident we are in using it – we are recommending it more widely every year,” says Mr Cairns.

Rob Buck, fertiliser trader at Gleadell, UK agent for SKW Piesteritz fertilisers, says Alzon is selling well this autumn as more farmers come to appreciate its benefits.

“Most enhanced urea fertilisers contain urease inhibitors that work best in warm climates. Alzon has been specifically developed for the cooler, northern European climate by using a nitrogen stabiliser that controls the rate of conversion of ammonium to highly mobile nitrate.

“This can improve crop uptake, quality and yield as has been demonstrated so graphically at Beal Farm this season.”