Despite a challenging year for grain growers the winners of this years United Wheatgrowers grain competition have delivered results that underscore Canterbury’s status as the country’s premier grain growing region.
The six winners of this year’s competition were announced at an award’s evening held last night in Timaru.
The competition has become a showcase event for arable farmers in the region, offering a range of categories for entries and the opportunity for growers to focus on the varieties they know will perform best on their property.
This year’s winners were a who’s who of respected Canterbury arable farmers, spread between Ashburton to Geraldine, running a variety of mixed cropping arable operations on dryland and irrigated land. They were selected from 97 entrants.
Competition judge Syd Worsfold said it had proven a tough job picking this year’s winners with little separating the top end entrants from one another across the key criteria of moisture, weight size, colour and appearance.
“There was really a lot of deliberation among judges when it came to selecting the top three in most types. Having said that in the premium milling wheat class the outright winner was clear, with the other two places in that category could have gone any way.”
Ashburton based farmer co-operative Ruralco remains a major sponsor of the prestigious event, investing significant time and funds into the event and the prize giving occasion.
Ruralco seeds sales manager Craig Rodgers said the competition is vital to showcase the skill and depth of the low-profile cropping sector. He also welcomed the 10% increase in entries for this year’s competition over last year.
“As a sector the arable industry is performing well above its weight, and the growers in this competition do much to highlight the level of skill and passion they bring to the sector. The fact the winners this year are quite a different batch to last year’s highlights just how deep that pool of talent in the arable sector is.
“The reward for us at Ruralco being involved is really about playing a part in showcasing the sector and the farmers within it.”
Judges determine winners based on anonymous entry samples. Syd Worsfold said irrigated crops were most likely to have had a better chance this year, given the type of season growers had experienced right from the moment the crops were in the ground.
“Initially we saw that very wet spring, where plants were not pushed for moisture stress, then from early October the dry weather really set in, we had about 60 days with no rain in the region and it was very hot, stressing the young plants, even those that were irrigated.”
He noted this had ultimately pushed most crop yields back throughout the Canterbury region.
“In our case it took about 2t a hectare out of our yield this year.”
The hot weather had also meant a significant amount of wheat was harvested before new year this year, something that was relatively rare.
United Wheatgrowers director and competition organiser Michael Tayler welcomed the continuing support of a locally owned co-operative in showcasing a sector that often flew under the radar in terms of recognition it received.
“We have an exceptionally high standard of arable farmers in Canterbury and as a sector there is a deep level of talent there for growing crops including wheat that are held in high regard by processors and seed companies,” he said.
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.”
This year’s winners of the United Wheatgrowers competition are:
Feed Wheat – Culnady Farm, David Millar.
Feed Wheat Protien – Chris Bell.
Biscuit Wheat – West Farms Ltd, Andrew West.
Milling Gristing Wheat – Pye Produce, Dean Pye.
Premium Milling Wheat – Slater Farms, Guy Slater.
Wheat Grower of the Year – West Farms Ltd.