30 October 1998

Patchy results dont rule out pulse cropping

DO not write off pulses after one poor season, says the Processors and Growers Research Organisation.

A last chance pre-area aid cut switch to linseed before Agenda 2000 could be misguided, it says.

"Growers should avoid knee-jerk reactions to patchy results last season," says PGRO director, Geoffrey Gent. "There are things one can do to reduce risk, and last seasons exceptional weather conditions are unlikely to re-occur."

If growers choose the right pulse crop for their land, gross margins are at least competitive with linseed, he says. "And do not forget pulses make the best of all break crops."

Green-seeded pea varieties such as Espace, Elan or Hampton have closed the yield gap on highest yielding white-seeded feed types such as Baccara. Growers can now achieve maximum yields, with the possibility of a premium for micronising or export.

These markets are expanding but farm supply is increasing faster. That means lower premiums this year than last, a trend likely to continue, says Banks Agricultures pulse and oilseeds trader, Graham Young. "Premiums are unlikely to increase, we could be talking only £2-£3/t next year."

Marrowfats better

Prospects are better for marrowfat growers, as higher priced contracts will be required to maintain supply, says Paddy Barrett of Askew and Barrett Pulses. "Growers are unsure what to do. Many struggled to average 1t/acre. Contracts will have to be £20-£25/t higher to secure supplies for next season."

Human consumption bean premiums look set firm, says Essex-based international pulse trader Adrian Peters. "Demand is good, and Ramadan is early next year, which means only UK beans can get there in time." Contracts at £15/t over feed prices for varieties such as Victor with zero bruchid beetle damage are already available.

Cutting costs with home-saved seed could be false economy, warns Mr Gent. Growers are advised to get seed lots tested as results show a higher incidence of seed-borne diseases in both peas and beans this autumn. "Make sure you are not losing out on yield with an old variety by referring to local trial results, and make sure the seed is tested properly."