Organic yield question
VERY high yields can be obtained from organically grown wheat, given a moisture retentive, fertile site. But on other soils yields can fluctuate violently making a hefty price premium vital.
Suffolk farmer Ben Powell of Halstead Place Farm near Bury St Edmunds told the 10th Organic Food Production Conference in Cirencester that organic milling wheat averages 5.6t/ha (2.25t/acre) on his boulder clay. However, yields can tumble, making a hefty organic premium necessary to take the price over £200/t to protect profits.
French experience with organic cereals confirms that yields can vary more than for conventional crops. "We must explain that risk is wider in organic production," maintained a French delegate. "It is not enough to report the results as averages."
Looking to the future, organic farmers in Europe have until the year 2000 to find a source of organically produced seed – as stipulated in an EC directive. "Dont be tempted to use home-saved seed," advised Bill Starling, organic cereal trader with Gleadell Grain Merchants. "I would be very worried about the risk from bunt and smut in uncertified crops."
Another growing challenge reported by several growers is the spread of creeping thistles. "So far there is no biological control and mechanical methods tend to cut it up and increase the problem," said Bill Cormack, ADAS Terrington.
• ADAS Terrington gets £2000/ha from organic wheat – page 50.
• Yields can be variable.
• Organic cereal seed will be needed by the year 2000.
• Creeping thistle a big challenge.