9 August 2001
UK farmer boosts French yields

By Andrew Swallow

AVERAGE wheat yields in a French farmers club have improved by at least 1t/ha thanks to advice from UK farming company Velcourt.

Members of Cent Quintaux or “Ten Tonne Club” pay 2.50/ha for advice from Lincolnshire-based senior Velcourt farm manager Simon Boughton.

He makes seven visits a year to the Pas-de-Calais region, where the A1 French co-operative operates.

Members of the club achieve 1-1.5t/ha better yield than the average for the co-operative as a whole, and they believe this is down to the advice they receive.

“The fact that Velcourt is a farming company is very important to us,” co-op president Louis Ringo told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“There is a big pressure from the agro-chemical companies to sell products and it is very important for our farmers to know that the advice is unbiased, from farmers for farmers.”

Each of Mr Boughtons visits lasts four days and includes a dozen or more farmer-group meetings.

“These are mainly on farms, though some are at the co-ops silos. We try to look at at least one crop of wheat, barley, oilseed rape and peas at each meeting,” he explains.

Discussions go way beyond product advice. “We talk about the nozzles to use, the volume of water, frost risk – all the day-to-day practical questions that a farmer has to deal with.”

Timing of operations and cultivations policy is also covered. “One of the first things we look at with new members is the quality of their seedbeds, the seed rate, and depth.

“Too many dont look behind the drill and are sowing at 2 inches deep rather than 1 inch.”

Drilling-date traditions have also been swept aside by the club, says Mr Ringo.

“When I took over on my farm from my father, we used not to drill before November. Now we start on 20 September.”

That is equivalent to sowing on 1 September in Lincolnshire, reckons Mr Boughton, who stresses to members the importance of matching variety choice to drilling date.

Growing quality wheats is also encouraged to improve the overall marketability of the co-ops grain.