8 March 1996

Rotation plans can help avoid complacency trap

COMPLACENCY could kill profits, Dr Mike Carver, director of Arable Research Centres, warned last weeks second annual conference of the Ulster Arable Society.

"It is going to get tough – it is just the timing that has changed. So the current complacency that is setting in is very dangerous. It has been said that if you pay a farmer a high price for his produce, he will just find an expensive way of producing it. We are already in danger of falling into that trap."

To prepare for price pressure he urged growers to look to their agro-nomy and seek better advice.

In a direct hit against talk of wall-to-wall wheat to maximise profits, he pointed to ARC work showing the value of choosing the right rotation and re-thinking establishment techniques. Picking the wrong rotation partners could wipe up to £280/ha (£113/acre) off each years gross margin, Mr Carver explained. And the wrong establishment technique could cost another £95/ha (£38/acre).

The seven-year trial, comparing 30 cropping sequences, clearly showed the effect of a preceding crop upon first wheat yield. Wheat after rape yielded 26% higher than wheat after wheat (see table).

That effect extended throughout the rotation, he suggested. Though not revealing which rotation worked best, he showed that accumulated gross margins over a five-year rotation varied from £1681/ha (£680/acre) to £3032/ha (£1230/acre). "That is an enormous effect on total farm profit – it is a difference of £270-280/ha."

At another site establishment is being considered, with five techniques used after straw is baled and removed or chopped and spread. A clear impact on yields, combined with savings on establishment costs and use of variable inputs, is feeding through to give a gross margin range after variables and establish-ment of £283-378/ha (£115-153/acre).

Mr Carvers message was clear. "This is the sort of information you need to run your businesses more effectively." With indications that costs are already rising he urged growers to cut variable and fixed costs "as aggressively as possible". &#42

Rotational effects

Yield of wheat after:(%)






Herbage seed102

Continuous wheat100

Focus in on crop management to protect profits, urges Mike Carver.