6 September 2002

Poor pea yields make soya look more attractive

The UKs sixth commercial

soya harvest is about

to start. Chris Horn

reports from a farm in

Sussex on prospects for

this years crop

WITH soya harvest approaching, it is time for pea growers in the south and East Anglia to consider switching at least part of their pulse area to soya next spring, says Soya UK.

Earlier varieties, improved agronomic knowledge and massive market potential means soya is at least as reliable as peas when grown in the right location, according to managing director David McNaughton.

Peas have lodged, lost yield and clashed with wheat combining this summer, he points out. In contrast, soya crops are standing proud and well podded. Early maturing varieties, like Elena, should be ready to harvest in the first half of September.

Yields averaging 3t/ha (1.2t/acre) are expected which, at £170/t for crushing, will at least match the margin from a 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre) pea crop at £90/t. "Many pea crops havent even achieved that this year," says Mr McNaughton.

The secret to success with soya is establishment, he adds. "You have to get it right straight away. A good fine seed-bed, with a pH of 5.8 or above must be produced. Weeds and pigeons must also be kept at bay."

At first soya grows slowly and is not very competitive with weeds, so pre-em herbicides are vital. "But once the ground warms up it takes off and you can pretty much shut the gate till harvest."

Rhizobium inoculant, without which the crop cannot fix nitrogen, is essential.

At £15/ha (£6/acre), it is far cheaper than the 200kg/ha (160 units/acre) of N needed otherwise.

Uniform plant populations are important. When the plants are too far apart they get small and bushy, the pods are low and combines can miss them, says Mr McNaughton.

Target population should be 50 plants/sq m on an 11.5cm (4.75in) row spacing.

Bouyant market

Not for now

[as table]

PEA v SOYA GROSS MARGINS

Crop Soya Peas

Yield (t/ha) 3.1 3.7

*Value (£/t) 170 90

Area aid (£/ha) 240 260

Total income (£/ha) 767 593

Seed (£/ha) 125 95

Fertiliser/inoculant (£/ha) 50 25

Sprays (£/ha) 80 89

Total costs (£/ha) 255 209

Gross margin (£/ha) 512 384

Source: Soya UK. *Assuming ACCS registered produce.


Soya Peas

Yield (t/ha) 3.1 3.7

*Value (£/t) 170 90

Area aid (£/ha) 240 260

Total income (£/ha) 767 593

Seed (£/ha) 125 95

Fertiliser/inoculant (£/ha) 50 25

Sprays (£/ha) 80 89

Total costs (£/ha) 255 209

Gross margin (£/ha) 512 384

Source: Soya UK.

*Assuming ACCS registered produce.

High hopes for second season

THIS is Mike Gentles second year with soya at Wittering on Chichester Plain, Cambs.

He has two varieties – K98 and earlier ripening Elena. "We are expecting a yield increase to about 1.25t/acre. Last years seed crop achieved 1 t/acre."

Harvest is not difficult – provided the weather is good, says Mr Gentle. "The leaves fall off and, once the crop has died off, a conventional combine cuts it easily.

"There is very little trash on the ground afterwards."

The crop fixes more nitrogen than peas, leaving 60-70kg/ha of N, making it an effective break, he adds.

"The gross margin from a good commercial crop is around £200/acre, plus the same IACS payment as oilseed rape, so returns are there."

Buoyant market lifts expectation

About 2m tonnes of soya and soya products are imported annually, so the UK market is strong even before the GM factor is taken into account, says UK Soya managing director David McNaughton.

"GM soya varieties will not grow between 48 and 54 degrees from the Equator, so we have a niche market in which to work."

The GM-free guarantee means UK soya can command up to £40/t more than world market price.

"We have just done a new deal with a leading supermarket that means we can offer growers £20/t more than the competition for human consumption crops – up to £190/t ex-farm for next harvest". &#42

Contracts for home-grown soya at £190/t should give growers gross margins comfortably over £500/ha, says David McNaughton.