Four agricultural students from Cornwall's Duchy College are the winners of the NIAB Agronomy Cup, and now hold the title 'the best student wheat growers in the country'.
Rosie Dodd, Rebuen Ridout, Holly Yelland and Lauren Hill are all studying for a foundation degree in agriculture, and achieved the highest gross margin in the 2016 competition at £1,531.95/ha.
They beat 18 other university and college teams, and a team of NIAB TAG farmer members, to lift the cup and win a day out with a NIAB TAG agronomist and free entry to a NIAB TAG Members technical conference.
The winners all came from family farming backgrounds, with a strong bias towards livestock.
The competition, which has been running since 2012, is open to agriculture and crop science students from universities and colleges across the UK.
The 2016 competition sites were at NIAB's regional centres at Morley, Telford, Cambridge, Cirencester, Hereford, Sutton Scotney, Berwick and Newton Abbot, where Duchy College's plots were based.
The competition is judged on a number of factors, including margin as well as yield, so any site differences are compensated for.
Ian Midgley, NIAB TAG's national trials co-ordinator, said: "The competition challenges a team’s agronomy, farm management and agricultural decision-making skills.
"It differs to other plot competitions as teams make input decisions for a milling wheat variety on a NIAB field trials site local to their college or university, which emphasises the importance of basing recommendations on field observations and local conditions.
"NIAB TAG trials officers apply the recommendation to fully-replicated field plots; we make it clear that their recommendations must be in on time and ask that they fully explain their decision-making.
“No extra N was chosen as their crop was very unlikely to make milling quality and as the wheat followed oilseed rape there should have been a reasonable supply of mineralised soil nitrogen, in addition to the 245 kg/ha applied as ammonium nitrate."
Rosie Dodd, team captain, said: "We first studied the topography and climate around the Kingsbridge area where the competition site was located.
"Although the south-west is well known for damp conditions and septoria, the locality around the trials is relatively dry in comparison.
"Our next step was to check the AHDB fungicide response data for each possible product and we then decided on a balance between price and efficacy.
"We felt lower rates were justified by the generally lower disease pressure in the area in the 2016 season, which was backed up by a tour of the competition plots where we saw little disease.
"So we kept with fairly basic chemistry early on, saving the main spend for our T2 to protect the flag leaf.”