16 June 1995

Growing oats leads to growing profits

By Tim Relf

PROFITS can be improved by growing oats, so Robert Kilby, a manager with the Sentry Farming Group in Kent has found.

"I was looking for another crop which gave the same, or better, return than winter wheat and also cut costs," says Mr Kilby, who re-introduced oats to 650ha (1600-acre) Whelan Farms, Biggin Hill, last year.

"In total, I have grown them for six years and only once – when the yield was 5.93/ha (2.4t/acre) – has the gross margin been lower than winter wheat. I had been warned that milling quality was difficult to achieve. But the crop has never yet failed to make the grade."

Mr Kilby adds, however, that marketing difficulties can arise, unless the crop is sold on contract. "Last year, we sold to merchant Usborne at £112.50/t for harvest movement."

Fixed cost savings from growing oats, he says, can amount to as much as £25/ha (£10/acre) compared to winter wheat.

"The crop is low input, so its demands on machinery are also reduced. On a flinty farm like this, reducing ground work makes a big difference to our tyre bill, for example."

Convinced of the crops merits, the 28ha (69 acres) of Image grown this year will be increased to 40ha (99 acres) next year.

"The expansion may be at the expense of winter barley," says Mr Kilby. &#42

Whelan Farms 1994 harvest returnsWinterWinterWinter


Inputs £/ha (£/acre)151 (61)121 (49)161 (65)

Yields t/ha (t/acre)5.19 (2.10)7.04 (2.85)6.92 (2.80)

Price (£/t)101.00112.50100.00

Gross margin £/ha (£/acre)568 (230)855 (346)729 (295)