Scoping review: impact of different crop nitrogen nutrition scenarios on cereal and oilseed varietal performance

Scoping review: impact of different crop nitrogen nutrition scenarios on cereal and oilseed varietal performance


Contract Title:

Scoping review: impact of different crop nitrogen nutrition scenarios on cereal and oilseed varietal performance

Contract Reference:


Contract period:

02/01/2024 – 31/03/2024




The AHDB Recommended Lists for cereals and oilseeds (RL) publications and resources provide information on yield and quality performance, disease resistance and agronomic features as well as market options to assist with variety selection.  The project is managed by AHDB and produced in collaboration with the British Society of Plant Breeders, United Kingdom Flour Millers and the Maltsters Association of Great Britain. 

Each year tests and trials are commissioned to provide robust data to allow selection of the best varieties which have a balance of features which are sufficiently better than existing varieties.  Currently information is provided for 11 crops, as detailed below.



Winter wheat

Winter triticale

Spring wheat

Winter rye

Winter barley

Spring oilseed rape

Spring barley

Spring Linseed

Winter oats


Spring oats


Winter oilseed rape


In RL cereals trials fertiliser applications take into account inherent fertility, previous cropping, winter rainfall, best local practice and advisory guidelines such as the AHDB Nutrient Management Guide (RB209).  Care is taken to provide adequate P, K and S, taking into account local circumstances.  Nitrogen applications are tailored to give maximum yields within the constraints of obtaining the appropriate grain protein contents for intended uses e.g. bread making or malting.

For winter oilseed rape, fertiliser applications are done in line with advisory guidelines such as RB209.  Sulphur is applied to trials in accordance with soil tests.  An application of a minimum of 40 kg S/ha is made in early spring. Trial operators are asked to be aware of the implications of other nutrient requirements and be prepared to apply an appropriate treatment.


Further information on trial protocols, including on fertiliser applications to described crops is available here: Trial protocols


Further information on the RL

 2. Background / Aims

In November 2022 AHDB launched a review of the RL project.  Review activities included a questionnaire, focus groups and stakeholder interviews.  Results of this activity have shown that there is demand for information on varietal performance with lower or more commercially typical inputs, this includes crop nutrition.   

AHDB is seeking to commission a high-level review that will provide critical overview on the evidence for any significant differences between cereal and oilseed varieties in nitrogen use efficiency. 

Examples of work in this area include:

Nitrogen and sulphur fertiliser management for yield and quality in winter and spring oats | AHDB

Nitrogen and sulphur fertiliser management to achieve grain protein quality targets of high-yielding winter milling wheat | AHDB

Updating nitrogen and sulphur fertiliser recommendations for spring barley | AHDB

Science Search (

Hawkesford, M. J. & Riche, A. B. (2020).  Impacts of G x E x M on Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Wheat and Future Prospects.  Frontiers in Plant Science, Vol. 11, article 1157 (doi: 10.3389/fpls.2020.01157)

The results of this high-level review will be used to help guide decisions on how levy payer demand for information on variety performance with lower inputs will be met.

3. Service Requirement

 a. Provide an assessment of differences between cereal and oilseed varieties in nitrogen use efficiency. This should include:

          a.Evidence to show difference between varieties in overall nitrogen use efficiency as well as any evidence for differences in nitrogen uptake efficiency, nitrogen utilisation efficiency and nitrogen harvest index
          b.Evidence to show the impact of reduced nitrogen applications on the rank order of varieties, by yield, in variety trials
          c.Evidence to show that specific varietal characteristics or attributes are associated with nitrogen use efficiency e.g root mass.

b. For each of the areas above an evaluation of the strength of evidence should be provided, this should consider:

       a.The robustness of the available evidence base
       b.The context under which evidence has been obtained, for example laboratory research, field trials and/or on-farm practice
       c. An assessment of how much confidence we should place in the conclusions reached.

c. Outline where there are gaps in evidence that AHDB may seek to address through the commissioning of future research.

In addition to providing this overall picture, the supplier should – where possible – also provide AHDB with supporting information about:

  a. How recently the evidence was published and an assessment of its quality. A separate spreadsheet should be provided as a bibliography and include web links, if used (this should be in addition to the reference list in the final report).

  b. Upcoming pieces of relevant research – e.g. UKRI-funded research projects and when they’re due to report.

  c. Where – UK/EU/other – the research was undertaken, drawing the boundaries of the search parameters to include only research from climates and locations that will resonate with UK farming practice.

  d. Whether there are any limitations – commercial sponsorship, patents etc – on AHDB’s ability to access and verify the evidence.

  e. A broad assessment of the ‘academic/grey’ split in the evidence – and, alongside that, any attempt to give a sense of proxy measures for the quality of the evidence.

With this information AHDB will consider how information on varietal performance with lower inputs can be delivered.  This may be achieved through changes to the Recommended List, or outside of the RL through other related activities.  Results of this scoping review will be used by AHDB in direct communication with RL stakeholders, including farmers and processors.

AHDB will arrange a meeting for the selected supplier to present their findings.


A report will be submitted within 3 months of the project’s start date.

 4. Structure / Format of Submission

Applicants are requested to complete the AHDB Research and KE Application Form – Full Proposal Small.

You should include:

  • How you intend to address the project objectives and deliverables.
  • Timelines and milestones.
  • Details and the capabilities of the team that will complete the work.
  • Details of any subcontractors/other organisations you will work with to achieve deliverables.
  • Evidence you or your team have completed similar or related work.
  • Proposed budget.
  • Your contact details.

The maximum budget available for this work is £25,000 (inclusive of VAT).

5. Evaluation and Award of Contract

Evaluation of tenders will be on the following basis:


All bids will be scored against the criteria shown in the table below.  The selection will be an open and fair competition according to AHDB’s procurement policy, which complies with EU state aid rules.

Quality and relevance of proposal

Scope of the work and value for money

Experience and expertise of bidder


No response is provided or the response fails to answer the RFQ


No response or price not clearly linked to milestones, activity, or resource


No relevant experience for this tender, or no evidence provided


The response significantly fails to meet the standards required, it contains significant shortcomings and/or is inconsistent with other bids


The response contains significant shortcomings, and it is very inconsistent with the other bids


The response contains significant shortcomings relative to other bids, and CVs lack evidence of sufficient expertise or experience by bidding team


The response falls short of achieving the expected standard in a number of identifiable respects


The bid falls short and it is not clear how the costs and resources available will deliver the project


The bid falls short, with poor fit for the elements of the team that will deliver this work. Over-reliance on one or two key people to providing oversight and ensuring the contracted outcomes are met


The response partially meets the requirement and provides certain relevant information, but is lacking or inconsistent in material respects


The response meets some of the bid requirements, but there are risks, or additional costs that may materially risk the project being delivered as planned


Some experience of delivering this type of work. However, the team lacks sufficient support/experience at all levels. Over-reliance on early career expertise to deliver the project, with insufficient oversight, or time dedicated by more experience team members.


The response meets the requirement in most respects, but is lacking or inconsistent in some minor respects


The response meets the majority of the requirements, but there are some minor delivery risks or inconsistencies linked to the project, that may not materially impact planned delivery


A strong mix of support with relevant experience, a good track record of peer reviewed work, but weak evidence that this work has been converted from research to commercial reality. May have some IP/Products/Services that could be relevant to the project


The response meets the requirement in all material respects and is extremely likely to deliver the required output/outcome. Plus it contains a number of innovative solutions/outcomes


The response meets all the requirements, has a clear and transparent costs, which are reasonable and necessary


A strong mix of support with relevant experience, a good track record of peer reviewed work, and work that has been converted from research to commercial reality. In addition, the organisation brings with it additional IP/Products/Services that will enhance this project

 6. Tender submissions


Quotes must be received by Noon:

29 November 2023


Submission instructions:


Email address:

Reference (entered as the subject):

Scoping review: impact of different crop nitrogen nutrition scenarios on cereal and oilseed varietal performance

Submissions will remain unopened until after the closing date and time has passed.

 7. Timetable



RFQ circulated

8 November 2023

Last date for suppliers to ask clarification questions

(suppliers are required to register their interest with AHDB in order to receive clarification information)

20 November 2023

Deadline for receipt of submissions/quotes

29 November 2023

Notification of intended award of contract

13 December 2023

Contract commencement

2 January 2024

 8. Additional Information

Not applicable

 9.Terms / Conditions of Participation


If you have any questions relating to this tender please contact:

Email address:

Reference (entered as the subject):

Scoping review: impact of different crop nitrogen nutrition scenarios on cereal and oilseed varietal performance