Andrew Blenkiron unswayed by new beet biofuel contract

All the barley, oilseed rape and 25% of the wheat have been cut and August has barely just begun. I can’t remember many years in which cereal harvest was this far advanced, but I can remember years when it has taken a further six weeks to complete the task in hand. We might as well hope for the best and get the job finished in a timely manner.

In the dry lands of East Anglia, one of the challenges facing us this season has been deciding which crop to harvest – the ripe one or the one that just started to grow in June. In particular, we have an October-sown field of Claire winter wheat which is just flowering. I had written the crop off a few months ago due to the drought, but it’s now tillering relatively well. This field will have to be farmed on for a late harvest. The other fields have had the benefit of glyphosate to assist in the decision-making process. It’s amazing how crops have the phenomenal ability to regenerate.

The benefit of the recent rains is that oilseed rape seed-beds are good and have been easy to make. In addition, new ELS grass margins are ready to be sown into excellent conditions.

One crop that looks like it may yield close to the five-year average is sugar beet. In the past few weeks, dormant seed has germinated and helped to fill in any gaps. Of course, the panic was on to get the contract signed and back before the deadline and the question was whether we should commit any tonnage to the recently announced biofuel contract. However, the £1/t discount to next year’s contract price isn’t attractive enough to excite me.

The recently enhanced base price is placing the future of this crop under immense scrutiny. After all, it’s starting to feel like the pressure on land use is increasing significantly. Buyer beware is the comment.

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