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Operating at the extreme: Estimating the upper yield boundary of winter wheat production in commercial practice

Mitchell, Emily G.; Crout, Neil M.J.; Wilson, Paul; Wood, Andrew T.A.; Stupfler, Gilles


Emily G. Mitchell

Neil M.J. Crout

Professor of Agricultural Economics

Andrew T.A. Wood

Gilles Stupfler


© 2020 The Authors. Wheat farming provides 28.5% of global cereal production. After steady growth in average crop yield from 1950 to 1990, wheat yields have generally stagnated, which prompts the question of whether further improvements are possible. Statistical studies of agronomic parameters such as crop yield have so far exclusively focused on estimating parameters describing the whole of the data, rather than the highest yields specifically. These indicators include the mean or median yield of a crop, or finding the combinations of agronomic traits that are correlated with increasing average yields. In this paper, we take an alternative approach and consider high yields only. We carry out an extreme value analysis of winter wheat yield data collected in England and Wales between 2006 and 2015. This analysis suggests that, under current climate and growing conditions, there is indeed a finite upper bound for winter wheat yield, whose value we estimate to be 17.60 tonnes per hectare. We then refine the analysis for strata defined by either location or level of use of agricultural inputs. We find that there is no statistical evidence for variation of maximal yield depending on location, and neither is there statistical evidence that maximum yield levels are improved by high levels of crop protection and fertilizer use.


Mitchell, E. G., Crout, N. M., Wilson, P., Wood, A. T., & Stupfler, G. (2020). Operating at the extreme: Estimating the upper yield boundary of winter wheat production in commercial practice. Royal Society Open Science, 7(4),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 18, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 22, 2020
Publication Date Apr 22, 2020
Deposit Date Mar 19, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 22, 2020
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher Royal Society, The
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 4
Article Number 191919
Keywords Extreme value analysis, generalised Pareto distribution, maximum yield levels, winter wheat yield
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 2019-10-31; Accepted: 2020-03-18; Published: 2020-04-22


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