Writtle University College agricultural students scoop Cereals Challenge prize

Henry Hawkins, Oliver Martin, George Padfield, Harry Coppin of Writtle University College, the winni

Henry Hawkins, Oliver Martin, George Padfield, Harry Coppin of Writtle University College, the winning team in the Cereals Challenge 2017. - Credit: Writtle University College

A team of four agricultural degree students from Writtle University College have scooped a virtual crop growing challenge.

Writtle University College accepting the Cereals Challenge 2017 prize: Keith Norman (Velcourt), Harr

Writtle University College accepting the Cereals Challenge 2017 prize: Keith Norman (Velcourt), Harry Coppin (Writtle), George Padfield (Writtle), Dick Neale (Hutchinsons). - Credit: Andrew Pennill

Oliver Martin, Harry Coppin, George Padfield and Henry Hawkins were up against seven other universities and colleges from across England in the Cereals Challenge.

They were awarded the prestigious agricultural prize at Cereals – the leading technical event for the arable farming industry - on June 14 as part of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists Cereals Awards ceremony.

For the first time in the competition’s eight-year history, teams did not have a real plot to manage but competed to grow the best virtual plot of spring barley.

The WUC team, which won individual cash prizes and £500 for the University College, chose to grow malting barley variety Octavia on light sands in Suffolk, benefiting from being close to maltsters and none of the weed black grass due to the region’s lighter soils.


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Harry, who is going into a job selling and demonstrating precision farming tools with Garford Farm Machinery, described the Cereals Challenge as “an amazing experience”.

“The University College has provided support and brilliant marketing of the Cereals Challenge and it has paid off,” he added. “It was good to incorporate our learning and agronomy skills into a potential real-life situation”

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Fellow teammate and family farmer, George Padfield said: “I feel very privileged to have been able to take part in such a high-profile competition, let alone win.

“The team were all fantastic along with the lecturers who need to take lots of credit for preparing us so well throughout our time at Writtle. Their hands-on approach and being able to easily access one-to-one advice sets the course apart from others.”

Senior lecturer in agriculture Henry Matthews said: “The Writtle team beat all other agricultural universities to win the Cereals Challenge, which is a very prestigious competition. Under the guidance of captain Oliver Martin, now assistant farm manager on the Sandringham Estate, the team were left to develop their plans with no input from staff and came up with the crop and recommendations, which would have been the most profitable if grown in the view of the judges

“The challenge is a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in an applied way, as they will have to in the roles they are likely to take up in the industry. Congratulations to the team.”

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