Farmer Focus: Input price hikes force realistic budgeting

It looks to be a good time to own commodities, as prices continue to rise. As arable farmers, this all very well if you bought your nitrogen back in June and still have not sold your wheat or OSR.

Those who are in this position can feel very smug, but for the rest of us who have not got it quite right, some very strategic decisions, based on realistic budgeting, are going to need to take place.

Budgets for the 2022 harvest, which were outlined in June, are now showing sales increased by 13% (based on November 2022 futures) and in the same breath input costs up, on average, by 25% (based on current prices for nitrogen, ag chems and so on).

See also: Why energy crops can fill the BPS income gap

About the author

Jack Hopkins
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Jack Hopkins is farm manager on a 730ha AHDB Monitor Farm in north Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,000 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.
Read more articles by Jack Hopkins

Some quick calculations on efficient nitrogen ratios are worth doing at current prices. This will help determine whether typical applications of 180-200kg/ha can be justified.

It is also worth using a yield based on a five-year average for this exercise, not the yield we would like to achieve.

For the past few years we have been trialling, in a small way, foliar N.

The coming season seems a good opportunity to roll this approach out further to try to get better efficiency from nitrogen and possibly reduce the total amount we apply.

Once again, come the spring the winter crops will really need to be judged on their potential, so we don’t waste costly inputs.

However, before we can worry about that, we need to get the crop in the ground.

Our autumn drilling campaign started on 19 September and a big push over seven days saw us drill 60% of our planned area.

This was a later start date than planned because of seed deliveries being put back.

Our proactive approach to the whole logistics nightmare meant several trips were made to collect our own seed, so we could at least start.

Since then, we have had 80mm of rain in nine days, which will make the second half of the campaign a little more challenging.

Fortunately, high pressure is forecast for the coming week, so hopefully we will get back to it and get the job wrapped up.

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