International Cropping Comparison for Winter Wheat at DLG-Feldtage 2020

Since DLG-Feldtage was first hosted in 1988, the DLG International Cropping Comparison has been fascinating visitors attending the event. Here, various cultivation systems are compared against one another in a cropping competition using the example of winter wheat. 10 teams from six countries will be taking part in 2020. The participants come from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia and the Czech Republic. In previous years, the highest yield, the best quality and the best financial result were the sole criteria. A new aspect has been added to this year's cropping comparison, however. Creativity is in demand.

Not only the highest profit margin is required; instead, courage to think outside the box and try out unconventional strategies is needed. After harvesting, it is then time to assess whether the individual targets have been achieved and to evaluate which measures have proved worthwhile.

A total of ten teams from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia and the Czech Republic will be taking part and competing against each other in the DLG International Cropping Comparison for Winter Wheat 2020, which has been designed as part of the technical programme and as a major visitor attraction at DLG-Feldtage. All of the participants will be focussed primarily on professional exchange with experts and farmers and on maintaining and developing their own network. Besides exchanging experience and knowledge, however, the spirit of competition is an additional incentive for the participants. Cultivating wheat under unfamiliar conditions and comparing your own strategy with that of others – who will come out on top here?

However, this cropping comparison is proceeding completely differently to what was planned. "It is difficult to make decisions from afar," says Albin Gunnarson, who is talking part in the cropping comparison in a group together with seven other Swedish farmers. Added to this is the fact that, this year, the foreign participants do not even have the opportunity to inspect the plots during the trial due to the travel restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, the participants from the various nations are facing up to the local conditions with their wheat cultivation strategy.

In 10 variants with four repetitions each, eight different varieties are being cultivated in quality standards A, B, C and E.

No.

Participant

Country

Variety

Quality standard

1

Patriotisk Selskab (consulting company)

Denmark

Heerup

B-C

2

NRW Chamber of Agriculture – Soest district office

Germany

Informer

B

3

Mendel University in Brno, Faculty of AgriSciences

Czech Republic

Asory

A

4

Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Ecotrophology and Landscape Development

Germany

Emerick

E

5

Strickhof Agricultural School

Switzerland

Poncione

A

6

10-tonsklubben (a group consisting of 8 Swedish farmers)

Sweden

Informer

B

7

Institut für Bodenkultur und Pflanzenbau e.V.

Germany

Informer

B

8

South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, Department of Agriculture

Germany

Campesino

B

9

Brockhof estate (DLG-Feldtage event location)

Germany

Riff

C

10

Agrostandart LCC

Russia

Cubus

A

Test field location:

The following test field handover parameters were available to the participants at the start of the cropping comparison.

The Brockhof Estate, the Feldtage location, is situated in NRW at the edge of the Soester Börde between the Ruhr region and Kassel directly adjacent to the A 44 motorway at a height of approximately 100 m above sea level. The average annual rainfall volume is 773 l/m2 and the average annual temperature is 10.3 °C.

The soil type at the location is loess/black earth with a soil rating of 67 to 72 points. The soil character is sandy loam (SiC - C: 22%, Si: 70%, S: 8%) and has a pH value of 6.9. The usable field capacity (uFC) is 250 mm. The soil reveals the following nutrient contents:

P:                    7.3       mg/100 g soil

K:                    19.5     mg/100 g soil

Mg:                  2.8       mg/100 g soil

Humus content: 1.8 - 1.9%

Crop rotation: barley (2019), potatoes (2018), wheat (2017)

Possible problems at the location: mice

Participants' strategies

Winter wheat comparison - an international competition


One competition, 10 teams from 6 countries and the question: Who achieves the highest profit margin? We wanted to know from Albin Gunnarsson from Sweden and Markus Bopp from Switzerland what strategies they will use in 2020 and how they see their chances of winning.

Our strategy is to ensure the best possible start for the plants by using large seeds and then adapting the use of fertilisers, herbicides and fungicides according to the conditions on the field. We only want to carry out fertilisation and crop protection measures that are essential. This will perhaps not lead to the highest yields but to the best economic result.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

Soest district office

Sustainable yield safeguarding with regional, integrated approaches.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

Faculty of AgriSciences

Our strategy makes use of the knowledge and experience of investigations into increasing efficiency in wheat cultivation.

The objective is the maximum exploitation of the genetic potential of a variety that should be adapted to the soil and climatic conditions of a location.

One additional objective is input profitability and the reduction of environmental impacts.

Our objective in the cropping comparison is to show that a high gross profit can be achieved and that the negative environmental effects of the crop protection agents that are used can be reduced at the same time by optimising winter wheat cultivation and crop management.

This will be achieved with the following measures:

  • Use of high-yield varieties with A-B grain quality and good resistance to the main crop diseases that occur locally.
  • Use of a lower sowing rate and promotion of the formation of high-yield tillers.
  • Application of mineral fertiliser and growth regulators depending on the weather situation.
  • Increased and later application of high-quality fertiliser with nitrogen.
  • Maintenance of a good state of health through specific crop protection to combat pests and by selecting crop protection agents in terms of their efficiency and environmental impacts.

The key strategy is the optimisation of costs in comparison with the anticipated yields and sales. The maximum profit per hectare is usually achieved at a level of 80 -90% of the potential yield. When external influences are factored into the calculation, this value is even lower.

The strategy is intended to show that a medium input level can lead to good economic results with relatively minor environmental impacts. This means obtaining economically optimum yields and grain qualities.

This strategy necessitates good crop establishment and management. Frequent, direct contact with the crop on the field is important in this strategy. The decision regarding the cultivation measures must be made on the basis of information concerning the current condition of the plants in the crop and the anticipated course of the weather. This appears to be difficult from a distance of approximately 800 km.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

Department of Agriculture, Ecotrophology and Landscape Development 

The objective is to produce a quality wheat with optimum baking quality using 20% less N fertilisation, as intended for red areas. While this almost certainly barely plays a role in the Soest region, it does affect numerous cash crop regions across Germany, in which high-quality wheat is the economically most important culture. Whereas a low-protein fodder wheat is a sensible alternative in regions with high livestock production, arable farming regions with low rainfall that are specialised in cultivating high-quality wheat are faced with the question of whether baking quality can be achieved at all. Of course, attention should also be paid to cost effectiveness and the moderate use of crop protection agents. What is or is not still possible if breeding progress and leeway in the statutory framework conditions are exploited is an interesting question.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

In Switzerland, 50% of wheat cultivation take place without the use of fungicides, insecticides and stalk shortening. The yields are nevertheless good. The Strickhof team would like to demonstrate that very robust varieties which deliver good yields are used in Switzerland. Strickhof's objective is therefore to cultivate high-quality wheat entirely without using fungicides and insecticides. In this case, fertilisation consists of around 140 kg N in 2-3 doses. Chemical weed control and, if necessary, treatment with plant fortifiers are carried out.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

The 10-tonne club wants to feed the world. We believe that every m2 is needed and must be cultivated as productively as possible with a small CO2 footprint. We additionally believe that modern crop protection is part of this system, whereby crop protection does not necessarily mean traditional chemical treatment but can also include biological treatment. All quantities that are used must be measurable and applied precisely. We use biofuels such as HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils) and RME (sustainable biodiesel fuel).

At home in Sweden, we work with sensors and Cropsat (a website for checking a crop via satellite). We also want to make use of this in the International Cropping Comparison for Winter Wheat.

We want to achieve a high yield with high efficiency from our N, P and K inputs. We will use the most modern fungicides and we intend to work with low CO2 emissions.

If we do not exploit the potential in our soil, someone else will go hungry.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

The objective to achieve a high yield and thereby bind the maximum amount of CO2 using adapted measures. These include calculated N fertilisation that gives consideration to the subsequent N delivery potential of the soil and the reduced use of crop protection agents adapted to the variety. The higher the yield and the lower the effort, the better the final CO2 balance.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

The highest possible yield with low input is to be achieved on the trial plot. To achieve this objective, particular attention is paid to the choice of variety, which should be healthy and deliver a stable yield so that the use of fungicides can be forgone if possible. An attempt should additionally be made to merge N fertilisation in order to minimise operating costs.

 

To show the success of our winter wheat cropping comparison strategy more clearly, the trial plot is to be analysed based on the ecological sustainability indicators of the research project 'The sustainability code for farming. Development and optimisation of practical methods of sustainability management and sustainability reporting for farms'. To do this, the use of farm inputs and machines on the trial plot are extrapolated to one hectare so that statements regarding the N & P balance and the treatment index as well as energy and greenhouse gas balancing can be issued.

  • Intention: generally low use of farm inputs and lowest possible passage frequency with high yield expectations at the same time under consideration of damage thresholds and sustainability criteria
  • Expected result: high profitability despite low effort

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

Normal cultivation of fodder wheat for poultry production, i.e. generation of a high yield with the minimum possible effort. Particular attention will be paid to Fusarium ear blight.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

Low costs for winter wheat production, safety for nature.

The cost reduction is based on the differentiation of crop protection agent application and the combination on application of various crop protection agents. The protection of our environment is related to the minimisation of crop protection agent use.

The best economic results are necessary so that farmers can continue producing.

The field file lists all treatments by 9 June, 2020.

The cropping comparison begins

After very different soil cultivation approaches (5 plough variants; 5 variants without ploughing), all of the varieties were sown on 25 October 2019.

According to the Fertiliser Ordinance, the cropping comparison participants are also required to carry out fertilisation need determination. The Nmin samples were taken and analysed on 12.02.2020 from the cropping comparison site. Due to the high Nmin values of 88 kg/ha, sampling was carried out again on 11.03.2020 and revealed an Nmin value of 62 kg/ha:

0-30 cm depth: 13 kg NO3/ha

30-60 cm depth: 18 kg NO3/ha

60-90 cm depth: 31 kg NO3/ha

In addition, less than 3 kg N/ha NH4 nitrogen were measured throughout the entire depth. The maximum permissible quantity of fertiliser then arises from the 'production' yields and qualities of the participants minus the Nmin values.

Based on these data, the plots were fertilised for the first and second times according to the respective participants' instructions. Weed control and growth regulation measures were also undertaken.

Situation on the field

At 427 mm, the rainfall volumes during the October to March period were higher than the long-term average of 252 mm. In February 2020, the rainfall volume of 120.8 mm was four times as high as the long-term average. Hardly any rain has fallen since mid-March and the topsoil is hard and capped.

  • The effect of the fertiliser is therefore partly delayed
  • Mechanical crop protection (harrowing) on the Strickhof (Switzerland) plots has had hardly any effect

The participants are hoping for rain at the end of April.

Harvest and evaluation

Once the cereal has matured, the trial plots will be harvested and the yields and qualities will be measured. The direct cost-free performance will be determined based on these parameters and the farm inputs.

In addition to the direct cost-free performance, whether the participants' planned strategy has worked and whether they have achieved their personal objective will also be evaluated.