Farmer Focus: Low crop margins sees ageing cultivators stay another year

Considering we are in an industry that often benefits from a weak pound, which by coincidence more times than not coincides with a Labour government, I decided to vote Tory.

This, of course, helped massively with a party majority, an instant strengthening of the pound and a reduction in grain prices yet again. I do like to keep shooting myself in the foot. Ah well, it was a vote for the greater good.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

A very welcome 25mm of rain fell in the first few days of May, which resulted in massive growth in all crops. Wheat reached flag leaf emergence by 11 May, quite remarkable when you consider it was only at growth stage 32 the week before. Disease levels are reasonably low, so only a moderate fungicide programme has been required, with the big guns coming out for T2.

Our first crop of spring beans for many years have grown well, only to be half eaten by weevils. Those pesky insects just won’t give up, even with a healthy dose of pyrethroid.

The new drinks factory is finally up and running with some very impressive production figures. Bottles travel so fast through the system your eyes can hardly keep up. There’s an equally impressive office complex – even I have to buzz to get in and muddy boots have to left at the door. I might have to invest in some slippers.

With the continued low grain prices leading to tight gross margins, capital expenditure will need to reduce in the coming year. For someone who likes bright shiny things this will be a good discipline, so most of our ageing Simba equipment will need to be nursed on for another year.

And although our Solo has been massively modified over the years, this will be its 15th season and our Freeflow’s 17th season. So when you consider both items have spent most of their lives being towed by a Caterpillar D8 or Case Quadtrac, that’s a real credit to a great British manufacturer.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Fruit Farms. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business