Agriculture students hope to lead WUC to virtual victory

April 2017

Image for press release
(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

A team of four agriculture degree students at Writtle University College are competing against seven other Universities and Colleges from across England in a virtual crop growing challenge.

Now in its eighth year, the Cereals Challenge is an annual competition organised by crop production specialists, Hutchinsons, and farm business management company, Velcourt, and aims to encourage a new generation of agronomists and farmers into the industry. For the first time in the competition’s history, teams won’t have a real plot to manage but will compete to grow the best virtual plot of spring barley.

WUC Team Captain Oliver Martin, a third year Agricultural Business Management (Crop Production) student explained the team’s choice to grow a malting barley on light sands: “By growing a malting crop in Suffolk, we are close to malsters. We have opted for Octavia which is approved for brewing and malt distilling. At least we know that we can manage the weed control, as we don’t have black-grass to worry about on the region’s lighter soils.”

Each team will be asked to present fertiliser and herbicide management plans, a PGR and pest management plan as well as a disease management plan and, most importantly, will be asked to evaluate their appropriateness and timeliness for each recommendation, input cost management, estimated crop yield and quality.

Speaking about the competition, Oliver added: “The Cereals Challenge is a great opportunity for us as a team to pool our individual knowledge and expertise, and to put into practice some of what we have learnt over the past three years.”

Supporting Oliver and the team which is made up of Henry Hawkins, Harry Coppin and George Padfield, is WUC Senior Lecturer in Agriculture, Henry Matthews who said: “This is a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in an applied way, as they will have to in the roles they are likely to take up in the industry. As on previous occasions, including when we won the competition, I am confident that the students are equipped to acquit themselves without any major input from me”

The winning team will be announced at the Cereals Event on 14th June as part of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists Cereals Awards ceremony.

Writtle University College offers a range of agricultural qualifications, ranging from short course programmes and apprenticeships, to college and university courses. For more information visit