24 July 1998

Right varieties can cut costs

SIMPLIFIED, but reasoned variety choice can cut costs later in the season, says agrochemicals distributor Hutchinsons. A new computer package could help growers achieve that.

"Generally farmers are growing too many varieties, and not making the most of them," claims technical manager Dick Neale. Over-complicated cereal cropping often means growers ignore varietal disease resistance and lodging ratings and apply blanket fungicide and pgr programmes, he says.

He rules out a single variety across the whole farm – that would be an extreme disease risk. Instead he advocates a more sophisticated approach using resistance groupings and selecting three varieties to suit the farm and intended end markets.

If growers get their variety choice right they can reduce risk and give themselves the best chance to reduce costs later in the season, he says.

To help them achieve that Hutchinson staff are now using Improva, a new software package designed to help advisers tailor inputs to each field, farm, variety and yield, driving up gross margins through more effective input use.

It is as applicable to hi-tech, GPS mapped farms as those where growers are using more traditional methods to assess fertility and yield, says Felix Patton.

The variety choice process starts with the grower and agronomist choosing a principal variety, based on the target market and farm situation. Partner varieties, based on disease diversification groupings, standing power and yield are then suggested by the system. Yellow rust is the priority disease.

Improva then links with the Hutchinson Information System and FieldPlan to produce an input blue-print for each variety.

"This establishes what to expect later in the season. But flexibility is still required to take into account seasonal variations," concludes Mr Neale.