Students hope to plot their way to crop contest win

Six teams will battle it out to grow the best crop of peas in the 2016 Cereals Challenge.

Six teams will battle it out to grow the best crop of peas in the 2016 Cereals Challenge. - Credit: Archant

Farming students from Easton and Otley College have officially begun a challenge to grow the best pea crop as part of a national challenge.

The 2016 Cereals Challenge has taken on a new twist as for the first time in its seven-year history, the six college and university teams to win through to the finals are growing a pea crop of their own choice, rather than a set variety.

The teams, from Newcastle University, The Royal Agricultural University, Harper Adams University College, Bishop Burton College, Riseholme and last year’s winners Easton and Otley College, won through from a field of 12 to take part in the contest.

They have been handed their plots at Chrishall Grange farm near Duxford, where Cereals 2016 will be held on June 15 and 16.

The competition will look at each team’s agronomic recommendations (based on appropriateness and timeliness of recommendations), input cost management, estimated crop yield and the quality, as well as the marketing of the crop. The competition will be judged by Keith Norman, technical director at Velcourt, Dick Neale, technical manager of Hutchinsons, Roger Vickers of the PGRO, Claire Domoney from the John Innes Centre, as well as Robert Law, the host farmer for this year’s Cereals event.

Teams will need to think about establishment of the crop, which is critical, to the overall gross margin. As real time agronomists, they will need to plan their input and management programmes according to the needs of the crop within the challenges of the season and environment, but also to justify these recommendations with an eye on the final gross margin.

“Their first task following this was to think about drilling dates and rates, as well as any early nutritional recommendations, and to present this information to the audience,” said Andrew Mortimer of Velcourt, who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the plots.

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Paul Hobson of Hutchinsons and Nick Shorter of Velcourt who launched the Cereals Challenge, said the challenge offered an insight into careers in agronomy or farm management, and was also an opportunity to meet youngsters looking for a career with either company.

You can follow the 2016 Cereals Challenge on Twitter @CerealChallenge.