Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

For latest Covid-19 information click on the link below.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update.

Aberdeen-Based SRUC Students Win First Winter Wheat Challenge

Published Thursday, 21st November 2013 in Study at SRUC news

Winter Wheat Challenge winners with John Rhind

The first Mains of Loirston Winter Wheat Challenge has been won by a team of four, first year BSc Agri students, from the Aberdeen campus of Scotland’s Rural College.

Hamish Knottenbelt (Aberlady), James McKerrow (Freuchie), Alistair McBain (Glenbervie) and Daniel Fleming (Broughty Ferry) made the largest gross margin on their crop of “Horatio”, soft distilling wheat, grown on three replicated sites in Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Midlothian.

In all nineteen teams of growers, aged under 25, entered the competition. The season started with very wet conditions at sowing time which meant that the plots were slow to establish, but the dry summer meant that diseases were not a major issue in this year’s crop. The teams decided the winter wheat variety to grow, the seed rate and various fertiliser and pesticide treatments. The Perthshire and Midlothian plots went in on 9th, 10th October with the Aberdeenshire plot delayed until 25th October due to wet conditions. The plots were sown and looked after by members of the SRUC crop trials team.

The winning students received their medals and a Perpetual Trophy from John Rhind, representing the competition sponsors Mains of Loirston Trust. It was established in 2007 by NE farmer the late Alexander W Allan who had a keen interest in advancing agricultural education. In presenting the award John Rhind said:

“The Trust were delighted to assist with funding the students Winter Wheat Challenge as it develops analytical skills in decision making and provides the sort of practical educational experience that I am sure Mr Allan would have liked. Moreover the enthusiasm of the teams participating in the competition and the rivalries between them, together with the resulting publicity has greatly raised the profile of this new Trust.”

Since its establishment in 2007 the Mains of Loirston Trust has given out over £100,000 in grants and awards for the furtherance of education in agriculture in Scotland and has over £250,000 available for new projects. The awards have ranged from grants to individual students, to college and university departments, assistance in funding  farm visits for school children, the purchase of equipment including a modern tractor for SAC Aberdeen, to name but a few.

Placed second in the Winter Wheat Challenge was a four man team from SRUC’s Edinburgh campus who had chosen “Solstice” milling wheat as their variety. While the crop responded well to the better summer of 2013 it required some £518/ha in inputs compared with the £310/ha spent by the winning team.

There were 2 teams in joint third place, one from the SRUC Edinburgh Campus and the other a team of Young Farmers from Fife. One of these contained the only woman in the winning groups, Jenna Thomson from Stirling.

According to the Champions the competition really was a challenge, but still enjoyable.

“A lot of our success was due to variety choice”, said Hamish Knottenbelt. We grow Horatio at home and we knew it had good yield potential and good disease resistance. When we visited the plots in January the plant counts were well below target so we decided to add some additional Nitrogen in early spring to encourage tillering. This seemed to of worked well”

James McKerrow said: “The competition was all about gross margins so we decided to keep our costs down. As the season was favourable we got away with not applying a fungicide. We would not recommend this for a commercial crop though”.

The team are defending their title and this year have decided to grow Viscount. However the tactic remains using as few inputs as they can get away with!

For the organisers Scott Murray, Lecturer in Agriculture and Business Management said:

“The Challenge was a great success with over 70 students and Young Farmers involved during the year. Teams based their decisions on their local site and seasonal effects, together with different management strategies, led to a range of yields from 5 to 10 tonnes/ha. One of the messages for participants was the old adage that “output is vanity and profit is sanity”. The winning team’s yield was 11% lower than the highest yielding team, yet their lower costs led to the highest gross margin of £974/ha.”

The Winter Wheat Challenge for 2013/14 is already underway with 17 entries in total. Of these 8 are from SRUC Aberdeen, 4 from SRUC Edinburgh, 2 from SRUC Barony and 1 from SRUC Oatridge campus.

Anyone who wants to know more should contact Challenge Coordinator Scott Murray on 0131 535 4048 or at You can also visit our Winter Wheat Challenge page.

Results Comments

Teams were placed according to the aggregate of their ranking at each individual site. The winning team were placed 1st at two sites and 5th at the other site. The team achieved an average yield and gross margin of 7.8 tonnes/ha and £974/ha respectively.

The second-placed team achieved placings of 3rd, 4th and 5th at the three sites and the two, third-placed teams achieved placings of 1st, 3rd and 11th and 2nd, 4th and 9th respectively.

The highest individual site gross margin was achieved at the Midlothian site; the winning team making a gross margin of £1,185/ha.

The highest individual site yield was also achieved at the Midlothian site, credited to the second-placed team, who just broke the 10 tonne threshold with a yield of 10.01 tonnes/ha.

The second and third placed teams comprised:


  • Alistair Nisbet, Bathgate
  • Douglas Pate, Haddington
  • Callum Paterson, Castle Douglas
  • Zach Reilly, Castle Douglas


  • Andrew Ross, Achnasheen
  • Andrew Sargison, Penicuik
  • Michael Scott, Haddington
  • Colin Taylor, Lanark
  • Jenna Thomson, Stirling


  • Iain Wilson, Cupar
  • Matthew Waldie, Cupar
  • David Laird, Thornton
  • Michael Quinn, Kirkcaldy
  • Donald Paterson, Cupar

More articles in the news archive.