FORMER world wheat yield record holder, Gordon Rennie, was in New Zealand recently and saw the new world record wheat crop just before farmer, Eric Watson, harvested it. He talked to Mr Watson for The Scottish Farmer.

IF YOU, like me, enjoy nothing more than seeing the most magnificent crops of wheat, then the majestic Canterbury Plains in New Zealand's South Island would be the best place to start– and that's where the latest world wheat yield record now lies. Many years ago, I had the great luck to live and work on a 1200-acre farm close to Ashburton in the heart of the Plains. Ashburton is at the heart of the farming community and massive showrooms in town are dedicated to the likes of Claas, New Holland, John Deere – though most visitors either pass through 'Ashvegas' heading south to Timaru or north to Christchurch, while some will head west towards the towering Southern Alps.

Not me, I take Beach Road from the middle of Ashburton and drive 8km towards the Pacific, which is just 16 km from town.

This takes me to Wakanui where some of the best soils in New Zealand are to be found.

In amongst magnificent crops of potatoes, parsley and other crops, you will see some of the best wheat crops in the world. The soils are a silty loam above gravel and the proximity to the ocean stops the aggressive heat of the 'Norwester' winds causing drought stress. Pivot irrigation is also on tap should any crop require a drink.

The Southern Alps produce and endless amount of irrigation water which, because it is mostly piped means back pressure powers the pivots that the operation runs on.

A few weeks back I was able to walk though some of Eric Watson's fabulous fields of wheat. I knew the crop looked massive and easily passed the i-Phone test – that's where you can lay and i-Phone 4 or Nokia 6310 anywhere on the crop and it easily sits on the full ears of wheat.

I was delighted, therefore, to find out that Eric has just achieved the Guinness World Record for the world's biggest yield of yield at a staggering 16.791 tonnes per ha (or 6.8 tonnes per acre). I was straight on the phone to wish him and his wife,Maxine, my congratulations.

Though we should not forget that in this part of New Zealand 14 tonnes per ha is almost the norm, what was it that made Eric's crop get close to 17 tonnes?

The previous crop had been in these rich soils for 12 months and was a crop of beetroot for seed. Leaving nothing to chance residual nitrogen was measured and Yara tailored a major and micro nutrient policy.

Leaf tissue analysis was used to tweak trace elements and of these, magnesium played a vital role.

Whilst Eric was coy about giving away all his secrets, there is no doubt that attention to detail and working with agronomists from both Bayer and Yara made a difference.

The crop began with a perfect seedbed and soils with an ideal nutrient status. I often argued that the day you sow a crop is the day the potential yield is set – certainly that was the case for any success that I had.

Eric sowed the crop with an 8m Horsch Pronto drill and as the correct seed spacing is vital for him, the speed of sowing never exceeds 8km per hour. Any faster and seeds bunch up, and evenness of plant population goes out the window.

From the day the wheat plants emerge to stem elongation in spring, the crop lacked for nothing. Yield robbing diseased have no chance with Eric's crop, as a the plants are protected by a fungicide programme based on disease prevention.

A robust and early programme of growth regulation ensure even a monster crop under irrigation stays standing. Weed control is also robust and, of course, there is no blackgrass in New Zealand to worry about.

Nitrogen application is based on knowing how much is in the soil, then that led to the decision to sow 258 kg of N at the optimum timing.

As farmers we can do so much and Eric does far more than most, but whether your crop is a world record or not depends on an excellent season and is down to Mother Nature in the end.

This year she smiled for Eric and Maxine and they deserved this record – I have a funny feeling they intend keeping it in New Zealand for many years to come.

The speculation is that the Watsons could be the first to harvest 20 tonnes per ha by 2020 – Eric and his team are now inspecting the paddock to discover why some parts hit 22 tonnes per ha. So, watch this space.

Record wheat crop – the vital facts:

Variety – Oakley.

Dates – sown mid-April, 2016; harvested mid-February 2017.

Location – Paddock 15, Wakanui, Ashburton, Canterbury.

Yield – 16.791 tonnes per ha at 15% MC.

Harvested area – 11.89 ha (select part of a larger field).

Ex-farm value – NZ$300 per tonne (£168) to local dairy farmer.

Applied N – 258 kg.

Main fungicide programme – based on Bayer's third generation SDHI, Aviator.