Farmer Focus Arable: Robert Law fears spring barley will be a no show

We completed autumn drilling on 2 December with Consort wheat following freshly lifted sugar beet. With our last fields we used the bombproof system of plough/press and then power-harrow combination drill.

Conditions were as good as they have been this season, and I was able to walk across the drilled land to have a word with Mark, the drill man, wearing my best brown shoes without anything sticking to them.

With three soft wheat buyers within 20 miles of the farm, we have stuck with our policy of only growing Group 3s. Regularly obtaining sufficient protein for Group 1s and 2s has always been a problem on this land.

Sending loads of this across the country with the risk of having your trousers taken down is neither good for one’s stress levels or carbon footprint.

Looking into the New Year, remaining land after sugar beet and stubble turnips will be split between oats, Zero 4 peas, mustard grown for seed and sugar beet. With no enthralling malting barley contracts or prospects, spring barley will again be a “no show”.

The arable outlook seems more stable than at this time last year. Fuel and fertiliser prices have come back significantly and have been settled for the past few months. Crop prices are moving slowly in the right direction, with a 20% rise in wheat values since harvest providing an opportunity to lock into some forward prices later in the season and for next November for the new crop. And currency shifts produced a welcome lift in SFP cheques.

Our in-lamb ewes are due to start on 28 December. Any of my arable farming friends or colleagues who remarked last spring or summer about the woolly pots of gold wandering around my fields are welcome to give a hand in the shed on New Year’s eve.

Merry Christmas!