Farmers' Feeding Challenge

Simon Revell
Simon Revell

The world’s farmers face a huge challenge to achieve ever higher crop yields to ensure they can keep feeding the world’s fast growing population.

Speaking to a group of Hungarian visitors to Great Plains’ Sleaford factory, Simon Revell, European Sales Director, said that rising population was just one concern:

“A growing population needs somewhere to live, and we are losing land to house and road building at an alarming rate. That means we are going to have to produce far more from the land that is left”.

There was huge scope for improvement, he added:

“The average wheat yield across the EU is around five tonnes/hectare, yet in the UK we have had a ‘10 tonne club’ for over 20 years, and now we have farmers aiming for 20 t/ha.

“If the average is 5t/ha, that means there are lots of farmers whose production is lower. There are huge gaps between the best, the average and the lowest.

“Obviously many farmers’ performance will be restricted by the quality of their soils, while other issues such as a lack of finance to invest in inputs, will all play their part.

“But many regions would benefit considerably from improving their growing techniques and raising yields to feed a growing population which has got used to having cheap food”.

Even farmers whose current performance is good should consider using more intelligent cultivation practices, so they could establish crops more economically and quickly: 

“Our company’s research in its home market over the past 20 years has shown that well performed one-pass cultivations can reduce the costs of seedbed preparation by some 30% and the time taken by up to 40%.

“Those are important benefits, the latter being especially valuable in countries like the UK where many farmers have to manage with very tight working windows.

“There are longer terms benefits from using these techniques as well, including better soil structure, improved moisture conservation and more effective re-cycling of crop residues”.

In the future he expects protection of soil structure to become more important:

“Every time you travel over a field you have the potential to damage it, and crops like oilseed rape, which are lazy rooting, are prone to yield reductions due to compaction.

“Simple adjustments, such as using the correct tyre pressures on all machines, can help reduce that danger – as well as reducing fuel usage”.

In 2013 Great Plains is co-operating in oilseed rape establishment trials across eight different countries in Europe to highlight the potential of this technique and test it in a wide range of soil types and conditions.