Independent agronomy advice ‘can slash input costs’

Growers attending Cereals were urged to give independent agronomy a try on part of their acreage to see the potential cost benefit of truly impartial crop input advice.

Arable advice comes from a number of sources, but the majority is from on-farm agronomists either attached to distribution companies or members of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC).

Distribution agronomists charge no fee and typically work for commission driven by product sales and are limited to a range of products chosen by their company’s technical team.

Independent advisers charge on a per hectare basis and can recommend a more complete product range, with no incentive to use any more than is necessary to achieve good results.

See also: New EU criteria threaten further farm chemical bans

AICC vice-chairman Sean Sparling told Farmers Weekly that this non-incentivised advice and up-front fee means the only margin an independent agronomist worries about is that of the grower.

Sean Sparling

Sean Sparling © Tim Scrivener

This was demonstrated on AICC’s Cereals stand, which displayed the cost an independently advised fungicide programme next to an incentivised one, taken from a farm in the north of England that used both sources of advice side by side in 2015.

The incentivised programme added up to about £217/ha, £70/ha more than the independently advised programme at £147/ha.

Mr Sparling explained this significantly higher spend is typically down to the use of bespoke products and additives such as wetters, buffers or trace element mixtures recommended by incentivised advisers.

“If you have only ever used trade, I would encourage growers to try some advice from an independent source, even if it’s only across a small proportion of their cropping area.

“It will give you a taste for a different way of doing the job and you will probably see that you end up with similar yield, but spend less money,” said Mr Sparling.

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