16 October 1998

How rotating set-aside pays

DONT forget set-asides rotational benefits when comparing its financial performance with alternatives, urges Wilts farmer Albert Bull.

Simply calculating margin over direct costs (Arable, Oct 9) takes no account of the yield benefit to the following crop, he says. That can add up to £100/ha (£40/acre) to a first wheat, making set-aside more attractive than either spring or winter barley.

Rotational benefits do need considering, agrees Masstock director Charles Bradfield. "It may not be as good as a true break crop, but set-aside can still give a worthwhile boost, similar to an oat break. The challenge is to manage it well enough to avoid grass weed problems."

Mr Bull of Bayardo Farm, Clench Common, Marlborough echoes the need for good management. "Weve rotated 25-30% voluntary set-aside around the farm since it started, to clean the land. We hit weeds with full rate Roundup and plough as soon as we can. You have to manage it well – if you dont you can add to your problems. But weve used it to virtually eliminate onion couch and we get up to 1t/acre yield benefit in the following wheat."