East & Otley College students triumph in cereals contest

The Cereals Challenge 2015 winners from Easton and Otley College: Adam Mann, Ryan Thompson, James Cu

The Cereals Challenge 2015 winners from Easton and Otley College: Adam Mann, Ryan Thompson, James Cunningham and Andrew Webber. - Credit: Archant

Students from Easton and Otley College have triumphed for the second year running in a national cereal-growing contest.

The team of four scooped the Cereals Challenge, which was run to coincide with Cereals 2015, a major annual arable farming event which took place earlier this month in Lincolnshire.

It was up against teams from Newcastle University, The Royal Agricultural University, Nottingham University, Bishop Burton College (Riseholme Campus) and Writtle College in Chelmsford.

They managed a plot of rye from mid-February until the day before the Cereals event, when they were judged by Keith Norman, technical director at farm management firm Velcourt, Dick Neale, technical manager of farm inputs firm Hutchinsons, and Alastair Priestley, managing director of Patrick Dean Ltd, which was this year’s Cereals host farm.

The Easton & Otley students, who are studying for a foundation degree in agricultural management, secured their win by a comfortable four mark lead over runners-up Bishop Burton College (Riseholme Campus), and 13 points over the Newcastle University team who took third place. The winning team was awarded a trophy and £1,000 prize money to share between the team members plus an additional £500 for the college.

“Growing rye proved to be more difficult for the teams than in previous years when they had more mainstream Cereals to grow; this meant that they had to go out of their comfort zones to find out about growing and marketing the crop,” said Mr Neale at the prize giving, held at the Cereals event.

“There were big differences between the plots particularly with regards to levels of Nitrogen applied, timings of application and product choice. Disease management also proved interesting as some teams treated for diseases such as Rhyncosporium which is not a disease of rye.”

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Mr Norman said: “The Easton & Otley team won by sheer attention to detail across every area of their programme. Rye needs a good PGR programme and they got this right, nutritional recommendations were also appropriate. However what really stood out was the time and effort that the team put into the justifications for their actions, which is an important part of the challenge,” he added,

This year’s winners worked closely together and agreed all inputs and management decisions alongside the guidance of lecturer Anthony Wilson, who believes that winning the Cereals Challenge will provide the students with the confidence to look at careers in agronomy or farm management that they may not have previously considered.

Otley & Easton team captain Ryan Thompson said: “It’s been a fantastic learning experience and has given us all a flavour of real time agronomy - we are absolutely delighted to have won.”