I hope we’re proved wrong, but on current inspection it seems we could have fallen at the last hurdle with some of the wheat this year.

After a robust and expensive fungicide programme, including a T4 on the Cordiale, the wheat all looked clean, and promising. Like the rest of the country however, fusarium is now widespread and yields will almost certainly suffer.

The oilseed rape was finally desiccated on 21 July, so unless wheat is ready first, the combine will stay in the shed until early August. The big question then is, what variety should we grow next year? DK Cabenet has looked well through the year and is still standing. However, its late maturity and thus harvest date virtually wipes out the early harvest and luxury of getting some groundwork finished before we start combining wheat.

While feed wheat prices have recently soared over £200/t for old crop – bringing that dream of a shiny new bit of kit closer – we should take a look at our colleagues in the dairy industry producing their produce at a loss, but still struggling on. Hopefully, the issue will soon be resolved and a brighter future will be visible for them.

Perhaps a similar market system to that for cereals be utilised for milk. Farmers have the option to sell to a contract at an agreed price for a certain quantity, quality and time-scale; the option to sell at a sort of “spot” price – they could sell a week or month’s supply at a time at the current market price; or fix a price for a future time period now. Surely this would encourage processors and supermarkets to pay a good price to ensure they have adequate quantities to meet their customers’ demands? I’m no expert in milk sales or contracts, so the idea is only worth about as much as a promise from a supermarket.

Matt Redman operates an agricultural contracting business and helps out on the family farm at lower Gravehurst, Bedfordshire. The 210ha farm grows mainly wheat, oilseed rape and beans.


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