Farmer Focus: Rain putting dampener on 2023 cropping year

The past year turned out to be one of extremes; windy, dry, hot, wet and cold. We had it all. The cold snap in December saw a daytime temperature as low as -6C.

Despite this, the 2022 cropping year was an almost perfect growing season, with ideal weather from the start of OSR drilling in August 2021 through to the end of harvest. 

There was enough moisture and high levels of light intensity to produce good yields.

Thanks to good sale prices and reasonably priced inputs, the result is a year which may be the best I see in my farming career. 

See also: Farmers reveal results of combine weed seed destroyer trial

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

There is always a “but” and looking to the 2023 cropping year, crops have been established in conditions which have continued to get wetter.

We had 516mm of rain since early September which saw some areas lost to flooding.  

Input costs, particularly fertiliser, are high and we also have overhead costs which are now likely to remain permanently increased.

Even if fuel costs ease back, labour, parts and machinery are all now significantly higher.  

At the same time, grain prices are currently below pre–Ukraine War levels, so any forecasts for 2023 harvest make grim reading compared to last year, particularly given the higher investment and risk involved.

Forecast returns such as this make capital spend on buildings particularly difficult to justify, as the payback requires taking a very long-term view.

When government policy for the future remains absent, making longer term decisions requires a leap of faith.

After a break of about six weeks due to wet conditions, ploughing has restarted on our drier fields. 

With luck, we can get a good run at it and make up for lost time and get some weathering on the soil to minimise cultivations required. 

Calving has also started and it is encouraging to see store cattle prices at a higher level than last year, encouraging breeders to keep rather than cull cows. 

Hopefully the optimism of finishers is that sale prices will rise during the year, and not that cereal prices are going to be low.

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