FARMER FOCUS: Concerns for sugar beet crop

With the exception of 10ha of spring oilseed, that’s the combinable crop harvest complete. Not bad to be almost cleared up by 21 August, especially considering the late start to the spring.

With the distinct lack of water on this light land during the growing season, results have been far better than expected: winter barley well above average, wheat above average and all hitting top milling specification. Then there is the oilseed rape, for the first time I can remember the cereals, including the wheat were all ready before we even started the rape.

Thankfully, in line with my thoughts on thin rape producing decent yields, we did manage the welcome surprise of an average crop in terms of yield; fingers crossed for oil content. It’s amazing considering the fact that it was still flowering in June. I suppose that we could say the same in reverse for the price, but I am not that sure that the price collapse is really that unexpected.

Now we will move on to the root crop and forage maize harvest. The main concern of the remaining crops has to be the sugar beet, which unlike the oilseed rape won’t compensate for the fact that it’s a thin, gappy crop and who knows what effect the misshapen, malformed roots will have. We can only hope that the autumn remains open and allows the crop to bulk up (significantly) and build high sugar contents. That reminds me, just how are next year’s pricing negotiations going?

So on to harvest 2014, oilseed rape has gone into excellent conditions behind the sub-soiler and the old Minimat (plough/drill combination). In light of recent seasons, we have focused on DK Cabernet and Palmedor (high erucic acid rape), with a try of DK Storm and DK Explicit. Wheat will be based on adding value on our low-yielding potential land and be based on the Group 1 milling varieties of Solstice and Crusoe. Winter barley area based around our new of Volume grown for seed production.

Given the recent application for a 2.25MW biogas plant, we have had to save quite an area of ground for forage maize for spring, with a planning determination date of mid-October. I do hope that we don’t have to adapt our cropping plan and plant any wheat after sugar beet (ever again).

Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Principal farm enterprises are combinable and root crops, including sugar beet. In addition the estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship

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