7 July 1995

Call for realistic yield targets

TARGETING inputs to realistic yields can give farmers more stable crop outputs, so protecting profits.

Rather than using high levels of costly inputs to chase top yields, the Lower Input Farming and Environment project aims for consistent yields about the 10-year average.

"We hit those yields eight years out of 10, whereas more variable higher input systems probably meet their targets only four years in 10," explained Long Ashton-based project co-ordinator Vic Jordan.

Key to the approach is a careful assessment of the need for nutrients and pesticides, plus the careful use of rotations.

Weed control is a good example. Grass weeds are tolerated in winter wheat, provided they are not economically damaging, and are then hit hard in the following oilseed rape. Similarly, broad-leaved weeds are controlled in cereals or set-aside when cheaper options are available.

Cultivations are also exploited in the autumn to stimulate weed emergence and provide effective control.

Harrow combing is then integrated with or without a herbicide in autumn and spring.

Such techniques are now being adopted. Although piecemeal, that is the best way, commented Mr Jordan. "The problem with complete conversion is the risk of adopting a new system. It is far better if farmers can develop specific aspects as they go along."

Numerous farmers were establishing small trials on their own land to evaluate aspects of LIFE principles, added Mr Jordan.

Vic Jordan: The LIFEproject aims for yields about the 10-year average.