9 November 2001

DEFRAproject aims to boost grower profits

By Andrew Swallow

HELPING arable farmers back into profit is the bold goal of the DEFRA-backed Agriknowledge project, which moved onto the road with the first of a series of roadshows in Peterborough on Tuesday.

At its core is a range of performance targets, providing benchmarks for key aspects of arable farm businesses, based on the practices of the top 25% most profitable farms in the UK.

"Some may think we are trying to teach grandma to suck eggs, but it is clear that a lot are still getting the basics wrong," says project co-ordinator Bill Clark, of ADAS.

"A lot of farmers are way off that top 25% of farms, but there is a lot they could do technically to change that, such as getting the timing and the dose of fungicide right. That can make as much difference as using a good or poor product."

But to make improvements, growers must know where they are in the first place and that means keeping detailed financial records, he says. "A lot of farms still dont know where they are financially. They know the bottom-line figure, and know they are not doing very well, but they do not know why.

The five key areas affecting farm profitability picked out in the project are machinery cost management; weed control; fertiliser use; disease control; and crop marketing.

Benchmarks are provided for each and supported with increasingly detailed information, so growers can investigate them as deeply as they want.

Where appropriate, the benchmarks are divided according to farm size, soil type or geographical location. Measuring individual farm performance against the benchmarks will reveal key areas needing improvement.

"The package is not a light read but a reference document, something you will go to and read the appropriate section of then put back on the shelf," says Mr Clark.

A book, web-site (www.agriknowledge.co.uk) and CD-ROM support the roadshows, all available from the HGCA (publica tions@hgca.com or 020-7520 3926). &#42

AGRIKNOWLEDGE AGENDA

&#8226 £280,000 DEFRA-backed project.

&#8226 Improve farm profitability.

&#8226 Benchmark comparisons key.

&#8226 Know where you are.

&#8226 Compare and act accordingly.

AGRIKNOWLEDGEAGENDA

AGRIKNOWLEDGEAGENDA

&#8226 £280,000 DEFRA-backed project.

&#8226 Improve farm profitability.

&#8226 Benchmark comparisons key.

&#8226 Know where you are.

&#8226 Compare and act accordingly.