Farmer Focus Arable: Philip Bradshaw protects beet

Crop storage is proving interesting this winter.

Frost prompted us to cover the last few hundred tonnes of clamped sugar beet. It’s always an unpleasant and almost as bad as the job of removing them in a hurry when the haulage gang returns, invariably on a cold, wet day.

It’s while doing such tasks that I question my decision to drill beet again for £26/t, although I’ll do so for at least one more season.

In our grain stores we are finding our primitive, but cheap, on-floor storage is causing a few headaches. Without inbuilt ventilation the grain, although largely dry, needs some airflow to maintain correct storage temperatures in one particular store. The “hotspot” screw-in ducts and fans are time-consuming to set up and move about, though they’re doing an excellent job.

As we approach the onset of spring and new crop growth, I have been looking at planned inputs for this season, particularly the nitrogen requirements on wheat and oilseeds.

I’m painfully aware of how expensive my nitrogen fertiliser has been for this season, despite it having been a relatively good deal on the day. It is also obvious right now that the price looking forward for new-season crops is low by comparison, which clearly will affect the break-even ratio.

But the other costs, both fixed and variable, of growing this season’s crop are also very high, and “N-max” is likely to keep us on the steep part of the nitrogen response curve anyway.

With this in mind, there is a potential for losing yield by under-fertilising. So while I shall use best practice to set rates in a responsible manner, they are unlikely to be cut because the risk of yield reduction in a high-cost season is simply too great.

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