World record success

by Anonymous Author

Ashburton farmers Eric and Maxine Watson have entered the renowned book of Guinness World Records after producing the world’s highest yielding crop of wheat.

The staggering 16.791 tonnes per hectare, beat the previous record of 16.519 tonnes held for two years by a UK farmer.

The Watsons have held a long time desire to excel as arable farmers on their 490ha farm located east of Ashburton that they purchased in 1992, and, with the help of one staff member, grow a wide range of crops for seed production, including cereals, grasses, vegetables and pulses. 

Eric says it’s a big relief to have achieved the record, especially after coming close in previous years.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have set a new record — I feel a bit overcome in a way, it’s quite an achievement.

“It’s a very good feeling after all these years of achieving high yields to get the world record, after all, it’s what we set out to do. Possibly one of the things that will come out of this is recognition of the New Zealand arable industry. It’s very small but there are some good farmers out there and it’s good to have the record back in New Zealand again.” 

On average, irrigated wheat yields in New Zealand are around 12 tonnes per hectare, demonstrating how remarkable the new record is. 

The crop was planted almost a year ago in mid-April 2016 and harvested mid-February this year.

With a focus on detail, the couple are pioneers in the field of computerised variable rate irrigation ensuring crops get the exact quantity of moisture required without wasting water.

Healthy soil is another focus area with regular nitrogen testing aimed at minimising fertiliser use wherever possible. They constantly try to improve farm performance and describe their business as a clear partnership that shares strategic planning and overall management.

Eric and David Weith inspect the wheat crop which took 10 months to grow

Eric puts his success down to his partnership with Bayer and Yara. Bayer, for its agronomy advice and range of crop protection herbicides and fungicides; and Yara, for its nutrition input.

“I couldn’t have done it without them — they made me realise I could do it. I suppose I needed a shove in the right direction,” he says.

“We’ve been achieving high yields for several years but have never bothered about the world record. The record definitely became harder to achieve after the 16.5 tonne barrier was broken in the UK harvest of 2015.” Bayer New Zealand Crop Science Country Manager, Scott Hanson, says the record is not only an important achievement for the Watsons, but for New Zealand as a whole. 

“For me, the record demonstrates the skill set that we have in New Zealand in the arable industry. The New Zealand grain and seed industry is an important part of the global seed market.

Farmers like Eric and Maxine demonstrate what New Zealand can do at a global level and truly promotes our industry to the world.

“We hope that achievements such as this will help promote New Zealand as a global leader in growing grain and seed for both the local and global markets.

Two years ago we worked with Warren Darling of Timaru to get the world record for barley. The addition of the wheat world record firmly puts New Zealand at the forefront of worldwide farming. 

“In particular, the Canterbury region is demonstrating that it not only has the best arable growing conditions in the world, but also the best and most knowledgeable arable farmers in the world.

“Bayer is focussed on improving crop yields through developing innovative products and crop management programmes. Our aim is to make New Zealand the highest yield producing country in the world.”

Yara New Zealand Arable Specialist, Paul Johnston, was involved with the overall crop nutrition advice for solid fertiliser inputs of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur and magnesium.

“Regular herbage testing was also a very important factor as this guided the timely inputs of foliar trace elements,” said Paul.

Eric believes he can do even better in the future. “It is an exceptional yield, but I could always do better and that’s my aim.

“There were things I saw when I was out there in the combine harvester and I thought, yeah, I could do this a whole lot better.”

The Watsons have won numerous farming awards, including Lincoln University’s South Island Farmer of the Year award and the Supreme award in the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Achieving the Guinness World Record is the pinnacle of their success.