It’s second time lucky for Lincolnshire grower Mark Stubbs as he takes top prize in the ADAS Yield Enhancement Network Cereals competition for 2023, with his crop of LG Skyscraper winter wheat yielding an outstanding 16.6t/ha. His last win was in 2019, with a crop of KWS Siskin that yielded 16.3t/ha.
Mr Stubbs puts his success down to an attention to detail encompassing delayed drilling, widespread use of farmyard manure and a move away from ploughing.
Farming 688 ha’s across two sites, on the Wolds and along the coast, wheat is the mainstay of the rotation which also includes oilseed rape and spring barley, for A&C Stubbs & Sons.
The block of 120 ha’s on the Wolds at Marsh Chapel is a heavy, clay site and Mr Stubbs has been growing LG Skyscraper here for several years.
He has always been pleased with the variety’s yields, which have averaged 10.5t/ha over this time. Grain quality has also been consistently good, and while this is not crucial to him from an end market point of view, specific weight is a priority with last year’s crop delivering a very acceptable spec weight of 80kg/hl.
LG Skyscraper joined the AHDB Recommended List in 2019, as the highest yielding wheat and maintained this pole position in 2020. Since then, it has remained a firm favourite on farm for its consistent high yielding performance across seasons, strong agronomics and suitability for later drilling for black-grass control.
Mr Stubbs’ attention to detail and planning before the season begins is a key part of his approach.
This starts with variety choice; he grows seed crops of new varieties, so is in a good position to see what varieties do well in the colder, exposed Wold conditions, or in fields along the coast.
The 2023 YEN winning wheat crop followed an oilseed rape crop that was allowed to green-up for as long as possible acting as a catch crop, before cultivating with a tine disc cultivator and packer, followed by a shallow disc cultivator.
Wheats are generally drilled around the last week of October; however, last year it was very wet, so he waited a week, drilling the LG Skyscraper on 11 November, at a rate of 250kg/ha aiming for a plant population of 275 plants/m2 in the spring.
His aim – given the blackgrass legacy – is to produce a thick, competitive crop which has immediate access to nutrients, so that it can grow away strongly.
“LG Skyscraper has a fairly vigorous growth habit once it germinates, so I don’t worry about sowing it later, as I might with some other varieties,” he says.
After several years of growing wheats, and particularly LG Skyscraper, Mr Stubbs recognises the importance of optimising crop nutrition to achieve the high yields he is pushing for.
He says manures, which are applied to stubbles and then incorporated within six hours, have seen the soil organic matter rise from an index of 2-10 despite the highly, acidic calciferous soils.
“We find that the nutrition contained in the manures kicks in early on, giving the crop a good start.”
For the YEN crop, liquid Nitrogen (225N,10%S) was applied in three splits, four weeks apart, and on average received 210kgN/ha, excluding the manure.
He favours a “little and often” approach, and in-season crop monitoring to fine-tune requirements. “We soil test and use the Yara N-tester to gauge how well the plant is doing and to address any shortfalls.”
A standard four spray programme was used for the LG Skyscraper. “ The variety has a weaker rating for Septoria (4.9), so it is important to tackle this early which means we are not chasing disease through this season, and in doing so we have never had too much of a problem,” he says.
“I don’t cut corners in terms of timing but will alter products according to the weather and disease pressure at the time.”
“Despite being slightly taller-strawed, lodging in LG Skyscraper has never been an issue even on the more fertile Wold soils, but we use PGR’s as and when needed, to support the crop we have in the ground.”
“As last year’s crop was grown on the March site with heavier soils, crop emergence and growth were slower, and coupled with late drilling, the crop didn’t reach a leggy stage, so a robust T1 was used which proved sufficient to regulate the crop.”
He explains that a T0 was applied but with the key aim of manipulating the plant to ensure it was strong and healthy, and a bio stimulant was applied to boost the plant’s defence mechanism to fight any initial infections.
Harvest took place on August 10 – which Mr Stubbs points out was early for a late-drilled crop. “It literally turned overnight, it wasn’t ripe when we checked it two days before, so I think we caught it just in time.”
His YEN report is useful and highlights where attention to detail is needed.
“We’re using YEN where we can to improve the farm,” Mr Stubbs says.
- Area – 3.2 ha (8 acres)
- Variety – LG Skyscraper
- Yield – 16.6t/ha
- Specific weight – 80 kg/hl
A&C Stubbs & Sons, Manor Farm, Calcethorpe
- 695ha of owned, tenanted and farm business tenancy (FBT) land
- Winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, spring barley
- Haulage business
LG Skyscraper Fungicide Programme
- T0 – Zonor + Scyon
- T1 – Medax Max + Silvron Xpro + Firefly 155 + Starane Hi -Load + Ally max
- T2 – Revystar XE + Tubosan
- T3 – Deacon + Soratel + Kendo