As one job finishes…

28 September 2001

As one job finishes…

THE dust has stopped blowing and we are now in a state of limbo between having drilled the wheat and not yet started the barley.

A total of 67.16ha (166 acres) of Malacca wheat has been sown and rolled in and 28.4ha (70.14 acres) have been spread with mini-slug pellets. All the wheat has now been sprayed at one leaf emerged with diflufenican plus isoproturon plus trifluralin and cypermethrin.

The oilseed rape sown at the end of August has also received a herbicide to control volunteer cereals and an insecticide tank-mix to control flea beetle and is looking very well.

We have had some results back from the analysis of grain samples taken by merchants. The Abbot has some high screening levels at around 4% and a specific weight which varies between 72 and 73kg/hl. Hagbergs vary between 280 and 300 and the protein levels average a healthy 14%.

The Malacca analysis shows a screening range between 1.4% and 3.5% with specific weights of 76.7kg/hl down to 73 kg/hl. Hagbergs are good at 300 plus and protein averages are 13.6% with none reading below 13.1%.

None of the milling wheat has been sold to date and we are hopeful that all the Malacca will find a Class 1 full spec milling wheat home and that the Abbot will manage Class 2, albeit with some allowances for low specific weights.

Post-harvest meeting

In anticipation of our A1 Farmers post-harvest meeting, I have been preparing some reports of the arable gross margins for 2000/01.

This is the first year for our new Farmplan Crop Manager Program, and I must confess to being most impressed. Recording the harvest was so simple and the reports are clear and concise and for the first time I have also included our cultivation costs, which will be interesting to compare for next season.

Table 1 shows the crop gross margin league table with oilseed rape at the top. In the past, wheat has always been the best combinable crop gross margin but with yields dropping by nearly a tonne compared to our five-year average it has been displaced by both oilseed rape and barley.

Malting contract

Since all the rape has been sold at an average price of £150/t, we know that the gross margin of £759.52/ha (£307/acre) is an accurate figure subject to any variation in the area aid. For winter barley I have taken a figure of £73/t, which is the September feed price plus a premium of £8/t on our malting contract.

The wheat price is an average of feed at £75/t, (already sold off farm), Class 2 milling wheat at £89/t and Class 1 at £91/t. All of which are feasible for Sept/Oct movement. It is interesting that while the performance of wheat as an enterprise failed to live up to oilseed rape and barley, in a field gross margin league table, three fields of Malacca did yield 8.9t/ha (3.6t/acre). To give an average gross margin of £823/ha (£333/acre).

This reflects the additional income from achieving a full milling specification from first wheat sown in mid-Sept on some of the better land and managed with a full range of variable inputs. This could be compared with later-sown feed wheat that yielded only 7.9t/ha (3.2t/acre) with a gross margin of £647/ha (£262t/acre). Clearly, this plus Jan-sown wheat yielding 6.5t/ha (2.63t/acre) with a gross margin of £601/ha £243/acre) has dragged our average down badly.

Table 2 shows the gross margin comparison between this and last years harvest for oilseed rape. Though a reasonable result in itself it is still not up to the levels achieved in 1999 and earlier, when high prices and area aid made all the difference.

Sombre feeling

The feeling around the boardroom of A1 Farmers last week was more sombre than usual as members went round the table in the time honoured fashion disclosing their harvest results and the ups and downs of a difficult farming year.

Judging by the performance of this small cross-section of growers, I wonder just how accurate the nationally reported harvest yields really are. Perhaps the estimated figure of 12m tonnes is exaggerated after all and we would do well to hold on a little longer before selling our grain too cheaply.

Conversely, since sowing conditions this autumn have been so good and the area sown is bound to be at record levels, perhaps taking cover for harvest 2002 could be a wise move. Was £70/t for next harvest the best price we shall see. I wonder? &#42

Table 2: Oilseed rape gross margin

2001 (25.64ha) 2000 (35.95ha)

per ha total per ha total


Yield 4.29t 110.13t 3.87t 139.28t

Primary output £ 644.29 16519.50 461.11 16576.97

Area aid 259.59 6655.89 304.00 10928.80

Total output 903.88 23175.39 765.11 27505.77

Variable costs

Seed 18.54 475.38 33.05 1188.00

Fertiliser Nitrogen 68.79 1763.86 42.87 1541.07

Sprays Herbicides 29.39 753.65 33.81 1215.45

Fungicides 19.18 491.85 24.83 892.52

Insecticides 1.05 26.88 12.19 438.40

Adjuvants 0.75 19.20 0.16 5.76

Molluscides 6.65 170.50 Incl insect –

Total variable costs 144.36 3701.32 146.90 5281.20

Gross margin 759.52 19474.07 618.21 22224.57

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