Norfolk farm A&J Wilcox has won first place in the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) Wheat Quality Award for the 2018 harvest.

Alex Wilcox, who farms 250 hectares at Stowbridge on the Fens and describes himself as an agronomist as well as a grower, said he was keen to learn about pushing the boundaries of yield.

“For me, the key elements for growing quality milling wheat are a healthy, well-structured soil, achieved through organic matter applications and soil management,” he explained adding this meant paying attention to detail in agronomy from seed bed conditions and nutrition through to fungicides.

Wilcox’s entry was the highest yielding, with 12.16 tonnes per hectare, and the highest protein yield of 1.35 t/ha.

His winning entry demonstrated great grain quality, good gluten rheology and produced loaves with excellent colour, structure and texture, said Mark Charlton who is chair of the variety working group of the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers.

The other YEN Wheat Quality Award winners were:

  • Second Place: Sam Markillie, Arthur Markillie, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
  • Third Place: Richard Carr, LE Carr & Sons, Maldon, Essex

The awards were presented at last week’s AHDB Milling Wheat Conference, which highlighted the importance of the supply chain in producing a quality loaf. Meeting specification to ensure consistency was a key theme, along with a focus on the customer and the need to be sustainable and profitable.

“We are trying to ensure food supplies for our country, especially in these political times of uncertainty, and we have to be working together to stay in profit and invest in the future,” said George Mason, senior executive at Heygates.

The event emphasised the role of quality from variety selection, agronomy management and post-harvest storage, through to milling and baking.

Variety choice and nutrition were key to achieving bread-making quality, according to Sarah Clarke, crop physiologist at environmental consultancy ADAS.