YEN aims to take farm yields to a new level

RAGT is one of the sponsors of the Oilseed YEN (Yield Enhancement Network) project, which was set up by ADAS in 2017 to connect agricultural organisations and farmers to help close the gap between current and potential crop yields.

The project involves studying the development of a given crop, the availability of light energy and water and the crop’s success in capturing and converting these resources into seed.

YEN states that OSR crops are capable of yielding 9t/ha in the UK. Top growers often achieve over 5t/ha, but the average production is around 3t/ha. This situation has changed little in the past decade.

“There are over 60 growers taking part in the OSR YEN project this year, two of which have been put forward by us,” says Cathy Hooper.


Ideal platform

RGT Alizze“We believe YEN is an ideal knowledge exchange platform. Farmer members benefit directly from the latest research, getting detailed technical information regarding their crop’s performance, as well as soil and weather data. Analysing all of this helps pinpoint areas that need addressing to help improve yields.

“This in turn indirectly benefits a much wider grower audience, who hear about and read the results through various channels.”

Cathy put out a message on RAGT’s WhatsApp group messaging service asking if any growers of RAGT varieties wanted to take part.

In response, Matt Cobbald, agronomy manager for Velcourt across Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset, put two farms forward for the YEN trials, both growing RGT Alizze.

“YEN has been a very interesting concept, using a cross-industry collaborative approach to try to share ways of further developing yields,” says Matt.

Both farms already achieve very good yields, but Matt believes YEN will provide a further layer of information to help push output further.

Both are growing sizeable areas of oilseed rape on chalky soils, about 380ha and 100ha, of which about a third is down to RGT Alizze. “It’s a good variety so I was happy to put these farms forward – they are just the sort of places you’d want your varieties to be tested.”

The crops were established using different seed rates, one at 30 seeds/sq m, the other at 60 to help combat a slug problem. Managing and optimising plant numbers and canopies will be one of the key challenges being undertaken this season in the two YEN fields.


Pushing crops

In addition, nutrition is also under the spotlight. “The concept is to really try to push crops compared with usual farm practice,” says Matt.

“As part of that, we are looking at adjusting volumes of nitrogen, sulphur and phosphate and manipulating application timings.”

The RGT Alizze on both farms, and indeed across his Wessex area, looks very good, says Matt. “It has noticeably less light leaf spot, and has been early to flower.

“Part of that was due to the season, but over the past couple of years I have noticed a similar trait. It went through stem extension extremely quickly and was soon flowering, which removed any concerns over pollen beetle. That’s a positive.


Building yield

“In addition, a longer flowering period is really important in building yield, to promote the development and filling of as many seed pods as possible.”

Generally, OSR crops have as much chance as any other season to perform well, he believes.

“Some varieties suffered on exposed sites in the cold weather, something we shall be looking at in more detail, but given good weather between now and harvest many crops look capable of delivering some very good yields this year.”