13 August 1999

Big cost savings to be made from fss, say growers

Farm-saved seed –

opportunity to cut cost or

extra hassle and risk?

Andrew Swallow visited two

growers saving their own

seed this season to find out

SAVINGS of nearly £100/t, and having seed on farm, on time, are the reasons two contrasting growers give for using farm-saved seed.

Both use arable production specialist Technicrops mobile cleaning service.

In Warks, Alan Nightingale grows 320ha (800 acres) of arable crops with his brother, John, at Fir Tree Farm, Fillongley. For economic reasons he switched to farm-saved wheat, barley and beans in autumn 1997.

"Basically the difference on cereals is £85/t. We get all the reps calling, so we find out what C2 is trading at anyway," he says.

For Worcs farmer Austin Knowles dairying is the main enterprise. But he still rates fss savings on 40ha (100 acres) of cereals worth having. "We are saving about £90/t, or £7/acre. That is quite a lot with margins so tight."

He is sticking with Pastoral winter barley, which avoids royalty (see table). "It is still near the top of the NIAB list," he notes.

Royalty will be paid on his home-saved wheat, Consort, through Technicrop. Some C2 Savannah is being bought in for possibly home-saving next summer. "It will go on the cleanest field," he says.

Mr Nightingale prefers to buy in C1 seed, and seed crops usually follow potatoes. "We look for a field where there is no wild oat problem. But we do rogue quite thoroughly to check for grassweeds anyway."

Cleavers cannot be rogued, so a Rolls-Royce chemical programme goes on the seed crops. "And we leave the first one or two bouts round the field out of the seed sample."

Variety choice poses a problem, as decisions are made two years before the commercial crops are harvested. "We look at trials and ARC results, and merchant demonstrations, then make a choice and stick with it," he says.

That meant growing Charger again this year, after all bar the seed crop went flat last harvest. Lower nitrogen, 160kg/ha (128 units/acre) instead of 200kg/ha (160 units/acre), kept that standing and allows for greater fertility under the first-wheat seed crops.

This harvest, Mr Nightingales seed crops are Rialto, Claire, and royalty-free Hereward. No problems are encountered selling to milling markets, he says.

"We inspect seed crops thoroughly and tend to put on extra sprays. An earspray on the wheats is routine to keep out fusarium. Originally we had concerns over seed quality, but in two years we have seen no difference at all," he says.

Beans are also saved at Fir Tree Farm, but oilseed rape is bought in. "A bag of oilseed rape is very expensive compared to what we are selling for, but the price per hectare at 3.5-4lb/acre is minimal," he concludes. &#42

FSSsavings example

£/t

Grain 70

Dressing* 47

Cleaning** 27

Bags 50kg 10.50

Royalty*** 26.74

Total £181/t

Drilling @ 185kg/ha

FSS £33/ha

£240/t C2 £44/ha

*Price depends on growers choice

**Orders over 12t.

***Where applicable. See panel.

Source: Technicrop.

NIAB recommended vars

exempt from royalty

Winter wheat Riband, Hereward.

Winter barley Pastoral, Intro, Melanie, Halcyon, Manitou.

Spring barley Chariot, Prisma, Dandy, Derkardo.

Beans Punch, Mars, Victor, Maris Bead.

Peas None.

Winter OSR Gazelle.

FARM-SAVED SEED

For

&#8226 £60-£90/t, ~£10-£16/ha, savings.

&#8226 No loss of quality claim.

&#8226 On farm, on time.

&#8226 Screenings back into feed pile.

&#8226 Choose field, and area of field carefully.

Against

&#8226 Extra hassle and labour at harvest/landwork peak.

&#8226 Saving on low volume marginal?

&#8226 C2 bagged seed cheaper this season?

&#8226 Buying group power = cheaper bagged supplies.

&#8226 Cleaners make margin on dressings.

&#8226 No royalty varieties falling behind agronomically.

&#8226 Variety commitment two years before commercial sales.

Is it worth all the extra effort?

Farm-saved seed seems like a big saving. But add in the extra costs, and take into account group buying discounts, and certified seed could be a better bet.

So says West Essex Farmers, a buying group with 112 members covering 32,000ha (79,000 acres) of arable crops.

"Savings on paper can look quite big, but for buying group members the difference between bagged certified seed and farm-saved seed can be down to £20-30/t," says general manager Nigel Whittaker.

Time and labour is required at the busiest time of year and risks are increased with farm-saving. Growers have to ask themselves is it worth it, he maintains.

That is least likely for users of small volumes where mobile cleaner charges escalate whereas the group can buy certified seed just as competitively through bulking up orders.

Royalty rates for FSS

Not BSPB BSPB

registered registered

cleaner cleaner

processed processed

£/ha £/t

Wheat 5.08 26.74

Barley 4.07 22.59

Spring barley 4.44 26.13

Oats 3.68 20.44

Peas 3.79 20.00

Beans 6.48 32.42

Oilseed rape 8.67 1300

Linseed 7.60 146.32