Demand for farm-saved seed could rise sharply this autumn after contractors reported a three-fold rise in seed processed largely for spring barley drilling.
An expected late harvest of low-yielding seed crops may push the price of certified seed higher and encourage growers to turn to using their own saved seed.
Nigel Day of Anglia Grain Services in Suffolk says with a late harvest and growers’ enthusiasm to drill early after last autumn’s wet weather may make farmers turn more to mobile seed processors.
He believes there is little winter seed left over from last autumn in his area and that overwintered seed will need to be germination-tested and may warrant 20% higher seed rates.
He reported farm-saved seed processing up 80% for spring barley varieties such as Tipple, Concerto and Propino, with overall seed processing for spring up 50%,
Further west, Rob White of Dorset mobile operator Evans & Pearce says demand for spring varieties outstripped demand and growers had to turn to farm-saved seed.
“There’s no doubt that without farm-saved seed, some farmers would not have been able to drill a cereal crop for harvesting in 2013,” adds White, who is also chairman of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors’ mobile seed processing section.
His members from Cornwall to Fife and Tayside in Scotland all reported high seed prices and predict a rise in demand for farm-saved seed in the autumn.
John Tisdall of Oxfordshire company CYO Seeds reported a fourfold rise in processed tonnage compared with a normal year, of which 80% has been for barley.
“Tipple has been fetching up to £700/t for certified seed, and you just can’t get spring barley any more,” he says.
In the West Midlands, Dick Bowler of Reso Seed saw a 200% rise over last year in the busiest spring he has ever seen, with spring wheat 10 times above normal levels.
Further north, Alan Turner of PA & SC Turner reported farmers in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire has pushed demand for farm-saved barley seed up by 250%, with Westminster, Wagon, Propino and Tipple all showing big rises.
In Scotland, Steve Wade of SAS says he has processed 85% more spring seed than usual, mostly of spring barley varieties Concerto, Optic, Belgravia and Wagon.