Farmer Focus: Fertiliser prices mean cropping calculations

Harvest was completed by 25 September, and we combined on 44 of the ­­­61 days since we started. 

In total, we cut about 1,500ha, which was a great performance by both staff and combine in a challenging season, with frequent damp conditions. 

Fortunately, the balers finished the following day as the weather broke on 27 September, and it has been mostly wet since.

See also: Terminating cover crops – how to get it right

About the author

Robert Drysdale
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on 4 contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The farm also has 130 beef cows running on land that is less suitable for crop production with the majority of calves being finished on the farm.
Read more articles by Robert Drysdale

While cutting spring barley, we had a demo of a combine with a Convio-Flex header. The difference in laid areas was huge, picking up more of the crop and feeding it evenly into the machine. 

We stop combining during the night when the barley starts to wrap round the auger and go into the combine in lumps, which can often be early in the evening.

Using the belt feed we could easily gain half an hour a day, which would be the equivalent of two extra days over the course of harvest. 

Cereal yields have been around average, with all of the spring barley crop now collected for malting. 

I was disappointed by this year’s OSR harvest, so it is good to see our newly drilled crop looking well. 

We blocked off every second coulter on the drill to encourage bigger, bushier plants, which will hopefully withstand flea beetle larvae better.

It looks likely this will be tested, as we had to treat all of the OSR area with insecticide due to damage from flea beetle grazing. Fortunately, we seem to have had good levels of control and hope that this results in a lower number of larvae in the spring.

When fertiliser prices came out in June, they looked a bit on the high side, but I did commit to most of our requirement, which now looks cheap. 

For the spring barley, I still had the compound applied at drilling to buy, and with the price rising almost daily some calculations were required before committing to record prices.

I will leave a few poorer-performing areas as fallow and put an extra field into grass, but will crop most of the planned area.

Malting barley prices of at least this year’s level will be needed to justify this.