30 August 2002

Lots of interest in Scots lupins

By Andrew Swallow

HOPES are high that lupins will be the crop to crack the long-term lack of a reliable, viable, home-grown protein crop in Scotland.

"There is a lot of interest in lupins because they are a high protein crop and farmers and compounders are keen to find an alternative to soya because of GM contamination concerns," says the SACs Elaine Booth.

SAC is running a trial with the three main types, blue, yellow and white, in Aberdeenshire this year to assess the viability of producing a combineable crop in the Scottish climate.

Crucially, following a change in the rules last year, arable area aid can be claimed on the crop at the same rate as pulses.

Commercial companies have been quick to capitalise on that, encouraging growers to have a go with the crop before the trials work is completed.

One grower is Alex McColl, of Loig Farm, Braco near Dunblane. He is growing 3ha (8 acres) of the blue lupin (Angustofolius lupinus) variety Sonet.

Drilled on Apr 11 at 160kg/ha with a power-harrow drill combination, the crop was slow to cover the ground. However, pre-emergence Opogard (terbutryn + terbuthylazine) did a good job on weed control and by July they were the best looking crop on the farm, spring barley having suffered in the very wet conditions.

"But whether they make any money we will have to wait and see. I reckon it will be Sept 15 at least before we harvest them," says Mr McColl.

He has been told the crop will yield about 3.3t/ha (1.3t/acre), but his own expectations are more modest, given this is the first time he has grown the crop.

"I am hoping for anything over 1t/acre. We are all on a very steep learning curve with lupins."

Grain protein with Sonet is typically 35%, says Bob Warnock of Perth-based merchants Mead Thom. He supplied the seed for the crop and, assuming Mr McColl doesnt decide to use the grain to feed his sheep, will buy it back at a price relative to soya.

"So if 46% protein soya is worth £160/t ex the dock, the lupins should be valued at £121/t. Basically it is three-quarters of the price of soya," he says.

Local compounders are interested in trying the crop, but due to small volumes and possible differences in quality on different farms uptake will be limited this year, he anticipates. "Farm to farm trade is more likely initially."

Excluding a maintenance P and K fertiliser application, seed, herbicide and dessicant are the only variable inputs, so given a 3t/ha (1.2t/acre) yield and area payment of £265/ha (£107/acre), a gross margin of £459/ha (£186/acre) should be achieved.

Mr Warnock also has customers growing the yellow-flowered variety Wodjil and another blue-flowered variety Borweta. "It will be interesting to see how they compare on yield and maturity come the end of the season," he concludes. &#42

LOIG FARM LUPINS

&#8226 3ha of blue variety Sonet.

&#8226 Established well.

&#8226 3t/ha yield anticipated.

&#8226 Harvest mid-Sept expected.

&#8226 Feed for sheep or sell.

Gross margin

Output £/ha

Grain (3t/ha @ £120/t) 360

Area aid (non-LFA rate)* 265

Total income 625

Variable costs

Seed** 136

Herbicide 22

Dessicant 8

Total variables 166

Gross margin 459

Protein crop rate, as announced by SEERAD Aug 6, LFA rate = £243. **160kg/ha including inoculant.