FARMERS are always seeking excellence. Whether it is the Holy Grail of wheat yield or the best an animal can be, there is no end in sight. It was ever thus.

However, that Scotland can eye a potential 18 tonne per ha yield must give grain growers here some solace to know that we have the basis, despite our contrary weather patterns, of some confidence that one day that goal will be achieved.

The theorists think that, at the moment, 18 t/h, is the maximum that can be achieved, though some growers are looking even further ahead to dreaming about joining the 20-tonne club. There are established projects actively looking at that possibility, like YEN (yield enhancement network) which is aiming to raise arable production off the yield plateau that it seems to have flattened out at.

It is not going to be easy. New varieties better able to withstand the rigours of crop disease, drought and combined with high yield, will be key. But there are, increasingly, new angles being taken to tweak that last ounce of yield, like micro-managing crop nutrients.

One way of doing this would be via routine grain analysis and those that have undertaken this have shown that three-quarters of all crops – and that even includes some from the best growers – are lacking in at least one nutrient. Soil and leaf analysis are shorter-term 'fixes', but analysing grain gives a better indication of whether a crop captures enough essentials throughout its growing life.

It's an interesting science and one that is sure to exercise the minds of many. But why not take a more co-operative approach? Could the grain trade be persuaded to include routine crop analysis as a matter of course, feeding back to their suppliers exactly what's going on in the their farm?

The UK is the first country to realise that grain analysis provides an accurate estimate of nutrient offtakes, as well as a full and final 'post-mortem' of a crop's uptake of 12 essential nutrients. It's been 20 years since Scotland produced it's 'world wheat yield record', so could there be future success if growers were to embrace nutrient technology, soil health and best practice disease control, including IPM (integrated pest management)?

Staying safe

It pains me to once again return to non-compliance by a minority of farmers in their attendance at auction sales. Those who are seemingly unable to see why face masks, social distancing and limited numbers should be mandatory at sales, are endangering the entire process at one of the busiest times of the year for livestock producers of all kinds.

It will only take one idiot to ruin what is currently a workable system for all. Spikes of outbreaks of Covid-19 are still happening around Scotland and the last thing any one would want would be for the local mart to be a source. Please, could everyone think of the majority when attending mart sales – everyone deserves to stay safe.