United Wheat Growers competition results 2019
A family partnership has claimed this year’s top award in the United Wheat Growers competition, New Zealand’s premier grain growing awards, showcasing the best of the country’s grain growers’ efforts.
Earl Worsfold of Darfield claimed not only the top award, but also won the Feed Wheat section of the competition where growers have the opportunity to enter across all five wheat processing divisions – premium, milling, biscuit, feed and protein.
Sponsored by Canterbury based farmer co-operative Ruralco, the competition is a highlight on the arable farming calendar providing an opportunity for the industry’s best operators to pitch their best cropping efforts against their peers.
Earl Worsfold farms in partnership with his parents Syd and Trish at Darfield on 400ha, including 260ha Earl leases from a neighbour. They typically sow about 200ha a year in wheat, with Earl’s focus being more on feed grains.
The win is a welcome second award for the family, with Syd being awarded Federated Farmers’ arable farmer of the year award last year, marking 30 years of commitment to the sector.
The win was also particularly rewarding for the Worsfolds with long time grower Syd having judged the competition over a number of years, and experiencing a particularly tough season the year before.
“But this year things seemed to line up well for us in what was quite a difficult start.
“The crop got away well, but then we lost a lot of sunlight over December, which set things back a bit. However we picked it up and the winning crop came off our dryland crop – this season I think dry land farmers would have done as well as irrigated,” says Earl Worsfold.
The Worsfolds managed to enter a 13t a hectare winning crop using the Graham hybrid, one Earl says has more than proven its worth.
“We just look at the FAR trial results when selecting and this was one that definitely stood out. It’s been pretty exceptional for us, the seed weighed well and every truck that collected the grain was very full.”
Competition judge Tim Dale said the growing season had in some ways been the opposite of the year before, with significant wet, overcast periods leading up to early January.
“The long spell of overcast conditions was not good for ripening and also bought significant disease challenge to crops. This did tend to reflect in the end result this year, with average wheat yields down about 2t a hectare, or about 20 percent.”
He said many growers would have been disappointed with their final yields and quality, but the challenges were typical for this season.
“Overall growers did exceptionally well, given the circumstances. As judges we saw a lot of shrivelled grain alongside the reduced yields. But at harvest time the weather was good which certainly helped, grain moisture was good and test weights were good too considering the earlier conditions.”
Ruralco seeds sales manager Craig Rodgers said Ruralco was proud to be continuing its key sponsorship role in the UWG competition. He said the competition was vital in how it helped set good benchmarks for growers to aim at, and for the traditionally low profile sector to show off its best work.
“Something we also noticed this year was the number of new younger arable farmers who are taking an interest and participating in the competition. It’s great to see new blood in the industry wanting to show what they can do, and it was a tough season to step up in.”
He said feedback indicated individual farm location and soil type had a greater impact than usual this year on crop quality and yield among competition entries.
UWG board member Guy Wigley said it was heartening to see how growers had opted to continue to support the competition, despite it being a season when putting the best crop forward was more challenging than usual.
“I think farmers’ expectations have become quite high now, and that reflects the level of skill and experience we have in this sector, operators are among the best in the world.”
Wigley said he was delighted to see the Worsfolds take out the top award, and it came at a time of renewed optimism within the arable sector.
“We are now experiencing better prices than we have seen for several years. They are putting our growers in a far more sustainable position compared to even 18 months ago.
“We have also just come out of an ideal autumn, with good crop establishment which is helping growers reset their cropping clocks, putting them in a good position to make the most of spring, with good wheat contracts also out there for the 2020 harvest.”
This year’s division
winners of the United Wheatgrowers Competition
Premium Milling – Alburn Farming Ltd, Ryan Cockburn & Alan Tindall.
Milling/Gristing- Canterbury Bulbs Ltd, Remco Stehouwer.
Biscuit- Seaview Lovett Farm Ltd, Lovett Family.
Feed- S&E Worsfold, Earl Worsfold.
Feed Wheat Protein- R & B McArthur, Richard McArthur.
Wheat Grower of the Year- Earl Worsfold.