YEN Yield Testing

EIP-Agri Project supporting groups of YEN farmers to test specific ideas.

Since the YEN began in 2012, the farmers, advisors and scientists involved have had many ideas for enhancing yields. Then when EIP-Agri funded the ‘YEN Yield Testing Project’, these were made into a ‘Treasury’, and farmers formed Farm Innovation Groups – or FIGs.  Each of the five FIGs comprised participants who were interested in testing a particular hypothesis for increasing their yields.

The new approaches and resources developed in the YEN Yield Testing project are explained and demonstrated here. These can now be used to facilitate further 'action research' projects under real-life farming conditions. They are designed to address the key challenges to doing action research on farms:

  1. Farmers’ ideas must be reconciled with current science, so any proven finding can be explained and understood by others
  2. Field scale tests must recognise and accommodate the large inherent variation that occurs across fields
  3. Individual farm findings can seldom be trusted into the future, because seasons and fields differ so much.

Resources and examples described here solve each of these challenges.

YEN Treasury of Ideas
 … integrating practice with science

Farmers, their staff and their advisors, often hatch ideas for improvement and progress but, even if acted on locally, these need to be communicated and explained more widely, to enhance progress across the whole industry and in science. 

Crop growth and yield formation are explained scientifically as conversion processes – of light energy and water – these are explained for the industry in Growth Guides.  We developed the ‘Treasury of Ideas’ to inter-relate farmers’ ideas with these conversion processes of light energy and water, and to prioritise the measurements that they should take to explain their findings.


Farm Innovation Groups, or ‘FIGs’:
 … farmers collaborating to make faster progress

Farms often test their husbandry decisions, sometimes even inadvertently e.g. through spray-misses. Effects can often be visible and convincing, especially if they are seen ‘to a line’. However, it is vital to know whether effects are ‘one-off’, or consistent across fields and farms.

So, in 2018 we formed five FIGs, to test the best ideas raised within the YEN. A FIG is a group of farmers, advisors and researchers all collaborating to answer the same question.  ADAS dubbed these ‘FIGs’, but another name for a FIG is a ‘Field Lab’, as operated by Innovative Farmers, or an ‘Operational Group’, as organised by EIP Agri (the European Innovation Partnership for agriculture).

By all making the same test, farmers in a FIG can learn much more quickly whether results of their husbandry tests are reliable; also, through ongoing discussions, often using social media, they can share more knowledge and draw more confident conclusions about what to do next. Five FIGs were formed through the YEN Yield Testing project; their reports can be seen below. FIGs offer a whole new way of doing research which should drive farming progress faster. 

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Agronomics Analysis
 … gauging confidence in crop yield comparisons

If a field includes a tramline trial, whether or not it shows visible effects in the growing crop, it is vital to know effects on yield. However, differences are usually too small to judge ‘by eye’ in any yield map. In fact, as most yield maps show, the immediate challenge on most farms is that inherent within-field yield variation is large, and much larger than effects of any treatments that we can think up.

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So ADAS (through investing in an Innovate UK project) developed a new way – which it calls ‘Agronomics analysis’ – of modelling the spatial variation within yield maps and thereby gauging the confidence that should be attached to any yield effect, after treating adjacent tramlines differently.

ADAS now undertakes Agronomics analyses for all FIGs arising from the YEN, and for a wide range of other clients across many crops and many types of trial.

FIG summaries:


YEN Yield Testing and ‘FIGs’ explained by Sarah Kendall



Related Organisations

Connected Content

ADAS provides ideas, specialist knowledge and solutions to secure our food and enhance the environment. We understand food production and the challenges and opportunities faced by organisations operating in the natural environment


Yield Enhancement Networks (YENs) were launched in 2012 to support and energise on-farm learning-by-sharing and thus to enhance farming progress.

Agronomics is the science of understanding the variation in the cropped environment, identifying the management practices and system designs that work. It uses a farm centric approach of shared farm data and on-farm experimentation.

To celebrate 10 years of the YEN, we are hosting a YEN conference that brings together learnings from across our networks. 

Farm-centric research generally involves On-Farm Experimentation and may be better described as 'Farm Action Research', i.e. research conducted at least in part by and for beneficiaries who also farm. 

On Farm Experimentation (OFE) is increasingly being recognised as having transformative power in improving performance in agricultural systems across the world.

Many of the most telling innovations that make a difference on-farm come from farmers themselves, or from close collaboration between farmers, advisors, industry and researchers

Crop yield has been a major subject of research and industrial improvement for decades.  The YENs have set out a framework for understoanding yield in terms of capture and conversion of the major resources light and water. Temperature plays a role in crop development and can also have a substantial impact on growth and yields.

Farmer Innovation Group as part of the YEN Yield Testing EIP Agri project Amino acids have been widely reported in the farming press and in a few scientific papers to be biostimulants, but with little or no independent evidence from UK field conditions. This Amino Acid FIG was established to put that right, making eight tests in 2018 and five more in 2019.

Farmer Innovation Group from the YEN as part of the YEN Yield Testing Project. The idea of crop momentum arose because high yields in the YEN associated with little-and-often applications, or ‘attention to detail’. Also, two interacting factors are thought to drive crop growth: assimilate supply (source), and assimilate storage capacity (sink). It was suggested that the initial source may affect the sink at the next stage; so increasing initial growth may enhance subsequent growth, creating ‘momentum’.

Farmer Innovation Group as part of YEN Yield Testing EIP Agri project testing spring potassium fertiliser applications