JUST how exactly does one go about growing a world record wheat crop?
English farmer Tim Lamyman is well qualified to answer, having been officially recognised for his wheat and barley crops harvested last year.
Mr Lamyman, who farms at Louth in Lincolnshire, is the proud owner of the world record for wheat, 17.96 tonnes to the hectare and barley, 16.2t/ha, even after a record heatwave in the growing season.
But what goes into growing a world record crop?
Mr Lamyman kindly shared his agronomy program with Australian Community Media and gave a behind the scenes look at what was required to push towards hyper yielding crops, including the 'lightbulb moment' that he thinks may have given the crop a final burst and pushed it over the line for the record.
Interestingly, the paddocks used for the record-breaking crops were not handled with kid gloves and primed up with extra nutrients prior to planting, but were part of the overall farm rotation.
Mr Lamyman's record crop was the Champion variety developed by breeders DSV.
It was sown on September 24, 2021 at a rate of 150kg/ha, and was growing for nearly 11 months before harvest on August 10 last year.
Interestingly the harvest index, or the ratio of grain to dry matter, clocked in at a whopping 56 per cent, markedly higher than the Australian average of 30-40pc.
In his exhaustive record keeping Mr Lamyman noted 22 spikelets an ear and an average of 66.5 grains an ear, with an astounding 37,000 grains a square metre.
Test weight was also high, coming in at 83kg/hl.
While Australian farmers work hard on water use efficiency, maximising sunlight is critical in cooler climate England, with the crop recording a 64pc capture of solar radiation.
The nitrogen application of 314kg/ha of nitrogen dwarfs anything seen in commercial cropping in Australia, but works out efficiently when accounting for the high yield.
Mr Lamyman said actively protecting the crop from fungal disease, a key yield constraint in the UK, was critical.
His major focus was maintaining green leaf in the canopy which in turn boosted yield.
Tebuconazole and Prochloraz were used initially followed by an application of Proline with Amistar and a final half rate Tebuconazole specifically aimed at late season brown rust.
"Brown rust is a major problem where I live," Mr Lamyman said.
Growth regulators, seldom used in Australia, also played a role, although Mr Lamyman said he used low rates early in the season to maximise nutritient uptake.
A nitrogen product with a stabiliser is used at low rates early in the season.
Mr Lamyman said this nutrient strategy was designed to create an effect known as the Cytokinin effect in the plant which helps the plant produce a larger root mass with shorter, stronger stems and more tillers.
"This growth habit from Delta K (the fertiliser) counters the normal effects of Auxin growth associated with any other form of nitrogen," he said.
"Applying Delta K just before an application of standard nitrogen early season will activate fibrous root mass production due to the natural cytokinin growth effects created in the plant."
"Activating the roots before applying standard nitrogen allows the plant to absorb more nitrogen from the soil leading to lower leaching losses and better NUE (nitrogen use efficiency)."
As the crop grew he said he switched to a nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium based product called TipTop, which he preferred as it was highly absorbable by the plant and easy to tank mix at low rates.
Next up a product called XStress was added to the liquid fertiliser.
"XStress is a liquid nutritional product aimed at helping the plant cope with extreme environmental conditions."
"Using XStress at T2 built some plant defences in against the incredible hot and dry condition the UK was experiencing at the time."
"XStress helps with leaf roll and even though it doesn't completely stop it the plant can photosynthesis for a lot longer in the day before it shuts down.
"This in turn allowing it to convert sunlight into yield, while plants without the product on just shut down as soon as temperatures go above 25C."
There was then an application of a combination of TipTop, XStress and calcium product CalFlux.
Mr Lamyman said the strategy addition of calcium was designed ot minimise leaf burn issues.
"When a plant comes under stress it draws on the new growth area of the plant first for its source of calcium, causing calcium degradation with leaf burn, blind sites and smaller poorer quality seed."
"CalFlux stops this problem and allows the plant to draw on its source of calcium instead of using the plants from the new growth area."
He credits a late season application of TipTop into the ear wash as a key boost.
"This product adding in some very valuable phosphorus with the nitrogen and potassium at the crucial grain formation stage."
While the headlines have justifiably been on the wheat, the barley crop also deserves some analysis.
Yielding 16.21t/ha, the KWS Tardis barley was planted on September at 225kg/ha.
It had a harvest index of 53pc and 1320 heads per square metre, with 14 spikelets per ear and an 21 average grains an ear, equating to 28,000 grains per square metre.
The crop was harvested on July 13 and had 210kg/ha of N.