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30 July 1999

Payment worries grow over OSRset-aside deals

By Andrew Swallow

GRAIN merchants are trying to limit payments under fixed price oilseed rape set-aside deals, so cutting crop returns, claim growers and their representatives.

Many have received letters from their merchants stating that only the minimum or forecast tonnage will be collected at the agreed price. Any excess yield will be paid for only at, or in some cases below, current commercial levels.

"Weve had a number of clients call about this," says agricultural business consultant Andrew Knowles of Laurence Gould. Growers with contracts fixed at £120-125/t seem set to lose at least £20/t on production over the minimum tonnage, he says.

Forecast tonnage

Cargills deal put the forecast tonnage at just 2.5t/ha (20cwt/acre). "If you look at the historical performance of industrial crops it is not unreasonable," says oilseeds trader Philip Kimber.

Contractually he is adamant that the forecast quantity is the only amount to which the fixed price refers. That is not how growers see it, says Mr Knowles.

"They were not made aware of that at the time of striking the deal," he says.

Yorks-based merchant Kenneth Wilson has also notified growers that any overshoot tonnage will only be paid at the prevailing set-aside rapeseed price at the time of movement, currently £20 below commercial rape.

United Oilseeds fixed price contracts set yields at 2.7t/ha (22cwt/acre), but chairman Giles Rowsell says growers will be paid for up to 2.9t/ha (23 cwt/acre) at the original fixed price. Any excess will go into the firms pool, on a minimum of £95/t.

Delivery condition

For Notts grower Mike Johnson, that leaves 20% of his Apex on the lower price, after both commercial and set-aside crops yielded 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre).

Contracts state he must deliver all the tonnage, and that payment will be per tonne loaded onto the buyers vehicles. "They appear to be re-writing the contract," he comments.

That is echoed by Viking Cereals chief executive David Balderson. "Both parties have signed the contract. The merchant has no more right to change it than the farmer halfway through the deal," he says. &#42

Final fling in oilseed rape at Heads Farm, Chaddleworth, Berks. Roger Lovejoy is giving up the crop because of concern among local stables that its pollen may affect racehorse performance. Winter beans will become the main break, putting harvest back a fair bit in future, admits the former barometer grower. The first (and last) time Madrigal gave 3.5t/ha (1.4t/acre), well up on the farms average.

Broadcasting can pay with oilseed rape

HUGE savings in oilseed rape growing costs are possible, say Axients Bill Barr and Morley Research Centres Ben Freer.

Speaking at a Novartis briefing entitled Winter oilseed rape; todays major cereal break – will it be tomorrows?, both agree it will. But growers should examine harvesting and establishment costs.

"Theres a big area for savings there," stresses Mr Barr. He calculates that switching from conventional establishment to the Autocast system (Arable, Nov 6), including a roll and slug pellets, could save growers over £100/ha (£40/acre).

Less broad-leaved weeds germinate under such zero tillage systems, cutting herbicide bills, Mr Freer adds. "We didnt have to use a broad-leaved herbicide at all."

Yields were no less than conventionally established crops.

Further cost cuts can be made by letting oilseed rape naturally senesce, says Mr Barr. Growers could save £20/ha on swathing and up to £40-50/ha on desiccation when wheeling losses are taken into account, even after allowing £15/ha for extra drying, he says.

"You need an even crop, and it may be worth going for an earlier variety," he concludes. &#42

Most growers plan to stay in OSR

OILSEED rape area in the UK is set to fall this autumn, but only by about 8% according to a recent survey by Novartis.

"That is considerably less than some pundits were saying," says the firms Nigel Padbury.

Although prices have fallen £5/t since growers completed the questionnaire in June, he believes the result would not change dramatically.

The survey covered 656 crops representing 16,000ha (40,000 acres).

The Lindane (gamma-HCH) ban should not influence variety choice, Mr Padbury continues. The survey suggests only 9% of crops have a perceived flea beetle problem.

VarPlan figures good

FIRST results from VarPlan, the independent assessment of combinable crop varieties being reported exclusively in FARMERS WEEKLY this year, highlight some encouraging performances (p56).

At 8.5t/ha (3.4t/acre) winter barley yields from the five control varieties on the first six sites are 4% above the five-year average. Early oilseed rape results also suggest output may be well up on last year.

Six-row barleys, especially candidate variety Siberia, have done particularly well, says NIAB.

Hybrid varietal association oilseed rapes have been impressive on the five sites so far assessed, with newly recommended Gemini 7% ahead of Synergy. &#42

Winter barley inconsistent

Home-saver tips

LATE harvested, naturally senesced oilseed rape germinates more vigorously than earlier harvested seed, a point home-saved seed enthusiasts would do well to note, says Morley Research Centre agronomist Ben Freer.

"If you are going to home-save a variety, naturally not a hybrid, then it is worth leaving a strip to mature longer and harvest it last."

In laboratory trials such seed reached over 90% germination in six days. In the same time less than 40% of early or normally harvested seed germinated, and even after 14 days, it only reached 70%.

"The message is all the seed may look black, but late harvested seed has much more vigour." &#42

The writing is on the wall for Graffiti – this unique purple cauliflower. Coloured caulis are not new, but this hybrid from Danish breeder Daenfeldt does not need cool nights to achieve its vivid deep purple curd, so ensuring better continuity of supply.

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