5 June 1998

Riband at lowest cost

This weeks finalist in the

FARMERS WEEKLY/Brown

Butlin Unit Cost Challenge,

in association with Deloitte

&Touche used stringent

cost controlto produce

Riband at least cost in the

Welsh Marches last year.

Charles Abel reports

PETER Williams farms just 133ha (329 acres) of predominantly grade three land with his son Paul at Bank House Farm, Yockleton, near Shrewsbury. The rotation involves two or three cereals after sugar beet, with ample cattle muck used to boost fertility.

Key to his success in reducing the cost of growing wheat is a policy of using inputs to optimise yield and contracting to minimise costs on the sandy loam soil which benefits from annual rainfall of 560-610mm (22-24in).

Riband preferred

Riband was the preferred variety for last harvest. "Reaper and Consort can match it, but Riband is still consistently the best performer for us. We dropped Brigadier because of its yellow rust," says Mr Williams.

Seed costs are contained by using purpose grown home-saved seed.

It is cleaned and treated with Beret Gold (fludioxonil) by local contractor Lloyd Jones of Direct Drilling Services for £75/t. A grain value of £115/t and £10/t for transport puts total cost at £190/t.

The 9ha (22 acre) block of Riband after beet was drilled on October 22 at 185kg/ha (1.5 bags/acre) costing £37/ha (£15/acre).

Compound fertiliser was not needed thanks to liberal use of farmyard manure before the beet. Field testing by British Sugar shows both P and K indices are high.

Nitram was bought at £125/t from a local merchant and used according to advice from ADASs Fertiplan, which takes account of residual soil levels. Three splits saw 45kgN/ha go on early in March, followed by two doses of 85kgN/ha each in early and late April, giving a total of 215kgN/ha costing £77/ha (£31/acre).

Advice in spraying

Spray advice is supplied by Alan Bowd of AB Consultancy at Bicton.

Although blackgrass is not a worry, cleavers and wild oats justified 2.8l/ha of Tolkan (ipu) plus 1l/ha of ipu, costing £28.23/ha (£11.42/acre).

Spring field walking then identified areas needing a follow up. With no grassweed survivors Cheetah (fenoxaprop-ethyl) was avoided and only Pursuit (amidosulfuron) at 15g/ha was used on April 9 to clear up cleavers and other broad-leaved weeds. Total herbicide cost was £36/ha (£15/acre).

A four spray fungicide strategy means Riband costs £61/ha (£24.69/acre) to keep disease free. "Its creeping up compared with a more typical £40/ha for other varieties," notes Mr Williams.

But the addition of a 0.2l/ha Amistar (azoxystrobin) ear wash paid dividends last year, producing the boldest, cleanest grain for years, he notes. Cost of the June 16 spray was £9/ha (£3.64/acre).

Despite dry spring conditions fungicide spray timings were held to, although rates were cut according to conditions.

The T1 spray was 0.4l/ha of Epic (epoxiconazole) plus 0.25l/ha of Tern (fenpropidin), applied with the blw herbicide and 2l/ha of chlormequat pgr on April 9. That was followed by a mix of 0.35l/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) and 0.5l/ha Bravo (chlorothalonil) on May 1, then 0.5l/ha Epic on June 1.

The policy paid, producing a 10.9t/ha (4.41t/acre) yield for a total input spend of £215/ha (£87/acre) – equivalent to just £19.72/t.

A family affair… Peter Williams (second left) and son Paul do plenty of contract work to offset machine costs at Bank House near Shrewsbury. Also pictured are wife Margaret and daughter Anne-Marie.

PETER WILLIAMS


Variety Riband

Variable costs £/ha

seed 37

compound 0

nitrogen 77

herbicides 36

fungicides 61

insecticide 1

growth regs 3

TOTAL 215

Operational costs

Plough and press 30

P harrow/drill 42

Spreading x 3 19

Spraying x 5 27

Total before harvest* 118

Overall costs* 333

Yield 10.9

Unit cost* 30.55

NB Harvest costs will be released when the winner is announced at the Royal Show in July.