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UNIT COST CHALLENGE 2000

2 June 2000

UNIT COST CHALLENGE 2000

Just how cheaply can you

grow a tonne of wheat? That

was what we asked in the

BASF/farmers weekly Unit

Cost Challenge. Here

Charles Abel profiles the

third of three finalists who

spent less than £35/t on

variable and operational costs

HIGH output from a system made efficient by rapid workrates and big cropped areas is the way ahead for Christopher and David Moore who farm 530ha (1310 acres) at Fleet House Farm, West Butterwick, Scunthorpe, S Humberside.

Mainly alluvial soils and vegetables in the rotation help keep unit costs low. A BASIS trained agronomist/sprayer operator helps fine-tune inputs and apply patch treatments.

A policy of running new kit hard during a three-year warranty period to maximise output, working hours and resale value while minimising repair costs and depreciation is the key to low operational costs.

Typical of the tractor costs is a 125hp Massey Ferguson bought for £40,000, which will sell with 3000 hours on the clock for £20,000 in three years, costing less than £7000 a year in depreciation, says Chris.

A three-year warranty is included in the deal. Servicing costs £800 a year, insurance £200 and fuel at 12p/litre in 1999 was £1750 a year. "Main dealer servicing is not the cheapest way, but for MF machines it protects their value."

Cost of a tractor, therefore, works out at £11.30/hour, thanks to the high annual workrate, which includes beet haulage and veg work.

Labour is costed at £8/hour, reflecting the skill levels required on the farm for veg work, giving an operational cost of £19.30/hour for tractor operation.

Establishment is cheap thanks to the near seed-bed conditions left after beetroot harvesting. Lifting in summer 1998 was early and in dry conditions, causing very little compaction. Headlands and spray wheelings only were sub-soiled at a cost of £25/hour, averaging £5.12/ha across the field.

Light discing followed in good conditions at 4ha/hour. That cost £10.29/ha, based on the discs costing £5.46/ha, plus tractor costs.

The power harrow/combination drill working at 2ha/hour cost £13.41/ha, based on £3.76/ha for drill ownership, spares and repairs, plus £9.65/ha for the tractor and man.

Rolling followed using a neighbour and his equipment for £75 or £3.84/ha, making total establishment costs £32.66/ha.

Fertiliser spreading with a twin disc Amazone covering 1060ha a year at 10ha/hour with depreciation of just £312 and £200 of repairs worked out at £5.03/ha for two passes.

Spraying at 80 litres/ha with a 24m Airtec mounted machine bought for £20,000 and due to sell at £10,000 after three years cost £16.22/ha for four applications. That is based on a 10ha/hour workrate and 2650ha a year throughput, which includes root crops.

Harvesting cost £50/ha by a neighbour, with carting at £15/ha, giving a total operational cost of £118.91/ha.

Variable costs

Variable costs are geared to crop need, the fertile site and root rotation making high yields possible.

Seed was bought from Dalgety for £300/t in 1998. Oct 18 sowing meant wheat bulb fly treatments were omitted, the seed being treated with Sibutol (bitertanol + fuberidazole) only. A lower than usual seed rate of 135kg/ha was made possible by the varietys good tillering potential, costing £40.50/ha. Farm-saved is now being considered to cut costs.

Residual fertility from the beetroot meant just 172kg/ha of bagged nitrogen, costing £81/t. "We could have spent up to £10/t less on imported product, but with spreading at 24m we needed a uniform spread pattern," says Dave.

Soil testing showed no P or K was needed. But half the field received manganese at 60p/ha and it all received High K foliar feed at £6.43/ha to improve peak potash supply on the high calcium warp soil, which can impede uptake.

Dimethoate (insecticide) was used on half the field to combat wheat bulb fly and cypermethrin was added to the herbicide mix. No slug pellets were used.

A good rating for standing and low N use meant Claire only received 0.2 litres/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) with the T1 fungicide on Apr 28.

Main weed pressures are blackgrass, wild oats, chickweed, speedwell and patches of cleavers. IPU is avoided due to its variable performance and leaching risk. Last year Amazon (clodinafop-propargyl + diflufenican) was used at 1 litre/ha costing £32/ha, plus Lexus 50DF (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) at 20g/ha costing £16.85/ha and Cropsave Oil at 1 litre/ha costing £1.60/ha. Control was good and only patches of cleavers on 10% of the area needed Starane (fluroxypyr) at 0.75 litres/ha costing £14/ha treated.

With mildew as Claires main disease weakness Corbel (fenpropimorph) at 0.35 litres/ha was added to 0.75 litres/ha of Landmark (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole) on Apr 28.

On May 28 flag leaf protection consisted of 0.75 litres/ha of Mantra (epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph + kresoxim-methyl) costing £31.53/ha. Monitoring continued, but no further sprays were required.

That gave a total variable cost of £224.70/ha, making the Moores total variable and operational costs for last years Claire £343.61/ha.

Whether that is low enough to achieve the winning cost a tonne will become clear when his yield figure is announced at the Cereals 2000 event near Lincoln. Watch out for the final outcome in farmers weekly. &#42

UNITCOST 2000

Maintaining profits while prices are low is far from easy. The key is to strike the right balance between yield and quality on the one hand and variable and operational costs on the other. To focus attention on this key issue farmers weekly and agrochemicals supplier BASF, with support from accountant Deloitte and Touche, are staging the Unit Cost Challenge 2000, with £2000-worth of popular fungicide Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) as the top prize.

Pushing for top yield in a rotation which includes roots and working equipment long and hard across a big area is the key to low cost of production for Lincs farmers Christopher (left) and Dave Moore.

Chris and Dave Moore


Fleet House Farm, Scunthorpe

Variety Claire

Soil type Medium silt.

£/ha

Variable costs

Seed 40.50

Fertiliser 47.23

Herbicide 51.85

Fungicide 70.07

Insecticide 7.05

PGR 8.00

Total 224.70

Operational costs

Cults/drilling 32.66

Spraying 16.22

Spreading 5.03

Harvest/cart 65.00

Total 118.91

Total costs 343.61

Yield* (t/ha) ?

Unit cost (£/t) ?

*Yields and final costs will be revealed at the winners presentation at the Cereals 2000 event on Wed, 14 June.

    Read more on:
  • News

UNIT COST CHALLENGE 2000

19 May 2000

UNIT COST CHALLENGE 2000

HIGH output from a low-cost system is the goal for Peter Robertson who farms 178ha (440 acres) at Palace Farm near Jedburgh, Roxburghshire. Mainly alluvial soils, vegetables in the rotation, rigorous attention to crop husbandry and strict control of equipment costs are the keys to his success.

Low seed rates are considered essential and underpin the drive for lower growing costs. "Variable costs are more flexible than overheads," insists Mr Robertson. "By reducing seed rate we are cutting costs and reducing the agronomic pressures on the crop throughout the season."

Indeed, sound agronomic advice is valued highly, counsel being taken from Coldstream-based Dalgety fieldwalker Dave Cowe with the aim of reducing input costs.

Late drilling after veg in December 1998 saw a rate of 180.4kg/ha for the Dalgety Masterseeds Claire treated with Sibutol (bitertanol + fuberidazole). Last year the rate dropped to 144kg/ha and Mr Robertson is keen to average 100kg/ha this autumn. Trials in conjunction with Dalgety are evaluating still lower seed rates across large 3ha blocks this season.

"We dont use farm-saved seed because we are using low rates and want the seed to be right. We cant afford to lose plants," notes Mr Robertson. Total seed cost for the Claire was £60.40/ha, based on £335/t.

A joint venture with a neighbour sees vegetables grown across up to 36ha (90 acres) – mainly potatoes, broccoli and cauliflowers for East Scotland Growers. Stale seedbeds before planting, extra herbicide use in the vegetables and residual fertility all drive cereal yields higher and cut costs.

Wheat nutrition includes 185kg/ha of nitrogen in three splits; the first split including 57 and 74kg/ha of P and K respectively to cut application costs. Prudent buying saw product prices of £85, £132 and £111/t for N, P and K respectively.

Sulphur and manganese are applied routinely at 6kg/ha and 1.5litres/ha. Total nutrient cost was £80.35/ha.

Broad-leaved weeds are well controlled in other crops and grass weeds largely absent, so herbicide spending is restricted to a single reduced rate application of Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) and Optica (mecoprop-P) in April costing £12.62/ha.

Disease control benefits from thin stands and routine crop walking to check for disease before spraying. Low disease pressure meant the Claire received 0.33litres/ha of Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz) mixed with the pgr at first node, then a half-rate strobilurin fungicide mixed with half-rate Beam (spiroxamine + fuberidazole) to combat Septoria and mildew at flag leaf. A further quarter rate strobilurin went on the ear to protect quality. Total cost was just £42.53/ha.

No insecticides are needed and – thanks to the low seed rate and judicious use of nutrients – lodging risk is low, requiring just one dose of 2.4litres/ha of 3C Cycocel (chlormequat) at first node, costing £3.24/ha. That made for total variable costs of just £199.14/ha.

Operational costs are held down by careful purchasing and maintenance. With just 178ha of cropping and with contract work scarce, Mr Robertson has little alternative.

Most equipment is bought second-hand with a known history from local dealers. Kind soils and a careful maintenance routine ensure long working lives.

Four tractors up to 15 years old work a total of 2100hours/year. Repairs total £1600, fuel £2100 and other costs of ownership were less than £9000, giving an hourly cost of £5.95. Labour is costed at £5.81/hour, based on a single employee working 2343 hours/year, making for an average total tractor and man cost of £11.76/hour.

Establishment is based around ploughing and power harrowing, with workrates of 0.5 and 1.5ha/hour. Low depreciation and repair costs for machines now in their eighth and eleventh years mean low operating costs, despite the low annual outputs of just 165 and 187ha. Adding tractor and labour costs takes total spend to £34.03 and £11.70/ha for ploughing and power harrowing.

Drilling with the 1990 Accord drill follows a similar story, costing £7.99/ha for a workrate of 2ha/hour, giving a total establishment cost of £53.72/ha.

Each pass with the 1987 Vicon spreader covering 5ha/hour costs £3.07/ha, while the 1994 Cleanacres 12m trailed sprayer covering 4.5ha/hour costs £5.79/ha. With five and four passes, total costs are £15.35 and £23.16/ha respectively.

Combining by a neighbour includes straw chopping at a cost of £7050 for 121ha last harvest, thanks to early maturing crops and large fields. That equates to £56.83/ha. Carting adds a further £15/ha.

That gives a total operational cost of £164.04/ha, making Mr Robertsons total variable and operational costs for last years Claire wheat £363.16/ha.

Whether that is low enough to achieve the winning cost per tonne will become clear when his yield figure is announced at the Cereals 2000 event near Lincoln. Watch out for the final outcome in FARMERS WEEKLY.

PETER ROBERTSON

————–

Farm: Palace Farm, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire.

Variety: Claire

Soil type: alluvial silt.

VARIABLE COSTS £/ha

Seed 60.40

Fertiliser 80.35

Herbicide 12.62

Fungicide 42.53

Insecticide –

PGR 3.24

TOTAL 199.14

OPERATIONAL COSTS

Cultivations 45.73

Drilling 7.99

Spraying 23.15

Spreading 15.34

Harvest/cart 71.83

TOTAL 164.04

TOT COSTS 363.18

Yield* (t/ha) ?

Unit cost*(£/t) ?

* Yield and unit cost will be revealed at the winners presentation at the Cereals 2000 event on Weds 14 June, near Lincoln.

Just how cheaply can you grow a tonne of wheat? That

was what we asked in the BASF/Farmers Weekly Unit

Cost Challenge. Here Charles Abel profiles the first

of three finalists who spent less than £35/t on

variable and operational costs

Plant populations are helping Unit Cost Challenge finalist Peter Robertson (right) drive down production costs. Large-scale field trials with Dalgety agronomist Dave Cowe are helping pinpoint the optimum for his mainly alluvial soils near Jedburgh, Scotland.

UNITCOST 2000

Maintaining profits while prices are low is far from easy. The key is to strike the right balance between yield and quality on the one hand and variable and operational costs on the other. To focus attention on this key issue farmers weekly and agrochemicals supplier BASF, with support from accountant Deloitte and Touche, are staging the Unit Cost Challenge 2000, with £2000-worth of popular fungicide Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) as the top prize.

Peter Robertson, Palace Farm, Jedburgh


Farm: Palace Farm, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire.

Variety: Claire

Soil type: alluvial silt.

VARIABLE COSTS £/ha

Seed 60.40

Fertiliser 80.35

Herbicide 12.62

Fungicide 42.53

Insecticide –

PGR 3.24

TOTAL 199.14

OPERATIONAL COSTS £/ha

Cultivations 45.73

Drilling 7.99

Spraying 23.16

Spreading 15.35

Harvest/cart 71.83

TOTAL 164.06

TOTAL COSTS 363.18

Yield* (t/ha) ?

Unit cost*(£/t) ?

* These figures will be revealed at the winners presentation at the Cereals 2000 event on Weds 14 June, near Lincoln.

    Read more on:
  • News

UNIT COST CHALLENGE 2000

3 March 2000

UNIT COST CHALLENGE 2000

HOW cheaply can you grow a tonne of wheat? As markets remain on the floor that is the question every grower is asking this spring.

To focus attention on this important issue farmers weekly has joined with leading agrochemicals supplier BASF to stage the Unit Cost Challenge 2000.

This concentrates on the variable and operational costs of production to identify the best agronomy and production expert. What we are focusing on are the variable, machinery and labour costs for each tonne of wheat grown.

Did you manage to strike the best balance between quality, yield and cost last year? If so take a moment now to jot some figures down in the panel below.

Who knows, a few quick calculations could set you on the path to winning £2000-worth of BASFs Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) fungicide.

£2000 top prize

Top prize is £2000-worth of BASFs popular strobilurin fungicide Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl) plus an engraved trophy. The winner and runners-up will receive framed certificates.

Sponsors message

"WITH the current economic pressure on arable farming it is vital that growers and advisors are fully aware of the factors which affect profitability. However, to do this there must be a full awareness of the true costs of producing cereals.

The professional cereal grower is able to account for every penny that is invested in a crop and more importantly knows what the likely return is going to be from this investment.

BASF is acutely aware of this and has over the past 20 years invested heavily in basic agronomy research at our four trial sites across the UK. This has allowed growers and advisors to fully exploit advances in chemistry such as Landmark and Opus.

This is not the total picture, however, which is why BASF is sponsoring the Unit Cost Challenge. Profit and survival for all of us is dependent on quality grain being produced as efficiently as possible.

We hope you use this opportunity to examine your production costs – and enter the Unit Cost Challenge to see whether you are amongst the most cost effective growers in the land."

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  • News
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