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2017 wheat competition a growing success

Words by Richard Rennie

14 March 2017

The popularity of the United Wheatgrowers Competition promises to take another step up in 2017, with organisers anticipating more entries than ever for the high profile event.

Last year’s event had 103 farmers putting their crops in for judging at the Ruralco Seed sponsored event. But organisers are excited by the spread of interest in the competition. While earlier events tended to draw mainly from the immediate Ashburton district, farmers from North and South Canterbury have also put their crops forward.

United Wheatgrowers Director Michael Tayler was optimistic this growth would continue, and says wheat growers from all over New Zealand are welcome to enter the competition.

With four areas to enter, including Feed, Biscuit, Milling-Gristing and Premium Milling wheats, entrants have a wide selection of fields to tailor their particular entry to.

“We also have the Protein Trophy, sponsored by Tegel, which recognises the ability of a grower to deliver the maximum protein yield per hectare. It is a benchmark that is becoming quite important for the feed sector and this indicates that to growers.”

Michael says the competition is proving an excellent platform for New Zealand grain farmers to demonstrate the exceptionally high standards their relatively small sector can achieve.

“We are identifying some really valuable niches within the sector that growers are proving very capable of working within.” Splitting the competition into the four categories has meant growers can get a clear steer on where they are best to enter, based off their skills, their crop and their land type.

Judging criteria includes moisture, weight, size and milling class, along with a standing crop’s colour and appearance.

Michael would also like to acknowledge the support of Ruralco Seed.

“The continued support and assistance from Ruralco Seed is really appreciated, without help from industry sponsors like them these events simply would not happen”.  

The competition’s strength and continuity is being welcomed by farmers who have previously entered it. Ruralco Cardholder and Methven cropping farmer Dale Palmer has won the feed wheat category in the past.

He says the competition is a great opportunity for younger farmers like himself to benchmark themselves against farmers who may have grown wheat for many years. He says it also highlights how despite its small scale, the New Zealand grain industry is carving out its own niches for high value crops.

Three of the five winners in the 2016 competition were from the wider Canterbury area, with the winners claiming the Feed, Biscuit and Premium Milling classes. David Birkett who farms just out of Leeston won the Feed category for the second consecutive year.

He has one eye on conditions early in this season before committing to the competition, but says it is a worthwhile event to showcase the best of what wheat growers can do.

“I think a little competition in any sector is always healthy in pushing things along,” he says.

His yield of over 16 tonnes a hectare was one of the best he has had in 10 years and he achieved that with “Oakley”, an older wheat variety.  

He says with the slide in dairy demand for feed grain the sector is now more exposed to overseas market prices, and it is making growers more conscious of costs and alternative grain income.

“That is why we are seeing a rise in plantings for other types like milling wheat which has also had a big lift in quality over the last few years.”

The Biscuit class was won by Colin Hurst near Makikihi, while Premium Milling class was won by Bruce and Grant Perry of Barrhill between Rakaia and Methven.

Ruralco Chief Executive Robert Sharkie says wheat is proving to be an indomitable, reliable crop with multiple uses that has performed year in year out in the province, grown by committed and expert growers.

“They are arable farmers because they want to be, they enjoy what they do and are good at it. The competition is our way of supporting them and encouraging them to continue striving, while also highlighting their work to the rural and general community.”

The 2017 competition is open to crops harvested in 2017, with entries closing May 31 2017 and judging taking place in autumn. A prize giving will follow in winter, with prize money up for grabs in all five categories of the competition.

For an entry form click here or contact Ruralco Seed on 0800 RURALNZ (787 256).