30 August 2002

Premium brings reprieve

A MILLING contract with a £20/t over feed premium has provided a reprieve for an old wheat variety on a Kent farm.

After many years Group 1 Hereward, first recommended in 1991, was due to be replaced by higher yielding Group 3 varieties. But the tempting premium from Bolton miller Warburtons has seen it retain its place at Martin Lodge Farm, near Dover.

"This level of premium more than makes up for the yield differential between Hereward and the more modern milling types," says Roger Waite, Velcourts regional director, who oversees the 1000ha (2500-acre) unit managed by Ted Vipond.

Hereward has the advantage of being a reliable protein producer, he adds. "There is little or no risk of the dilution effect and every chance it will meet the 13% specification every time."

On the mainly thin chalkland the rotation comprises wheat, barley and a break. On the better brickearths two wheats slot in ahead of the break. This harvest there are 40ha (100 acres) of Hereward as a first wheat and 45ha (112 acres) as a second. The only other miller is Malacca, with just 20ha (50 acres) after a break. The rest of the crop is Consort, Claire and Haven.

"We are majoring on Hereward for milling and pulling out of Malacca as its premium potential is lower and it is much more difficult to achieve the required protein," says Mr Waite.

"If the premium for Hereward had stayed at the standard milling wheat level we would have ditched it three or four years ago. It was then getting very close to the buffers, but the premium increase has kept it on the tracks. We have harvested 11t/ha at 13% from it in a good year".

The farms five-year average wheat yield is 10.4t/ha. As a first crop Hereward can be expected to do close to 10t with 9.3t from a second crop.

As a second wheat Malacca yields about the same, and after a break it outyields Hereward, but at Martin it can often be hard to achieve the target protein, says Mr Waite. "This harvest there has been no yield downside to Hereward over Malacca and both have achieved 13% protein. We were lucky in the south-east and were able to harvest early and retain the Hagbergs."

Soft feed varieties outyield Hereward by about 1t/ha as first wheats, but that penalty narrows to about 0.75t/ha in the second slot, he notes.

"At a £10/t premium there is nothing between feed and milling except more risk so there is no point growing the Group 1 variety, but at £20/t the extra premium makes Hereward more profitable."

The risk involved with growing for the milling market is less with Hereward than Malacca, he adds. He believes it is especially useful in the second slot where yields are inherently lower, better proteins more likely and greater certainty of getting the top premium to close the economic performance gap.

First wheats get a total of 210-220kg/ha of nitrogen. The first split is applied in late February/early March with the second four or five weeks later. Second wheat gets 50kg/ha more, with 30kg going on in early February to kick-start root development and counter take-all.

A late third dose is applied to the milling varieties with Malacca getting 30kg/ha of solid N at flag leaf emergence plus 20kg of liquid N after flowering to boost protein. Hereward gets either solid or liquid N, but not both and so is cheaper to grow.

Some of the saving is eroded by the need for early quinoxyfen to control mildew, the older variety being more susceptible than Malacca. Otherwise both varieties get a similar fungicide programme.

"We get on well with Hereward, but if we had not been offered a double premium for it we would have switched to more Group 3s." &#42