We asked Allen Scobie of crop consultant’s Bridgend Partners, and Robert Law, a farmer neighbouring this year’s Cereals site, why they go to the event. Here’s what they said…
I recall having a meeting with a group of farmer clients in June 2004. Wheat was trading at £65/t and it was raining so hard we couldn’t hear each other talk. “Don’t worry,” I said. “Things can only get better.”
I could tell by their glazed expressions that they were having difficulty believing me. The mood at Cereals was subdued and the main topic of conversation was which environmental scheme to join.
In June 2006 Cereals had a feelgood factor (even the parking was better organised). Farmers were talking about reinvestment and everyone could see that market opportunities were reappearing. The harvest saw the world’s largest cereal crop, but low end stocks.
It is now early summer 2007 and the mood of optimism is still growing. The European Union has less wheat in intervention than the production of one large arable farm. Global warming and renewable energy are key subjects for every self-respecting journalist, TV presenter and politician.
Cereals 2007 will be farming’s opportunity to show its ability to produce food and renewable energy in a sustainable, low-carbon way (arable farming and forestry are the only industries whose production naturally absorbs carbon and releases oxygen). Plant breeding, precision farming, innovative plant protection and min-till can all help reduce farming’s carbon footprint, but we need new data on the absorption of carbon by crops and soils and the energy cost to produce these crops.
So far, data used by government scientists are generic and out of date. Oil companies, food manufacturers and environmental groups all express concerns about the renewables industry and it is up to agriculture to counter the food versus fuel argument.
In the 1980s world agriculture produced 300m tonnes of wheat and scientists predicted we would run out of food. But in 2006 agriculture produced double that. Agriculture’s challenge is to convince governments, environmentalists and other industries that we can, through good science and technology, deliver energy and food in a sustainable way.
Cereals 2007 offers the chance for the whole industry to reflect on the season, see what’s new, meet old friends and make some new ones. Don’t miss it it will be one to remember – for all the right reasons.
I am not a great show person but consider Cereals to be a must for myself and any forward-thinking person involved with the cereal-growing industry. I have attended each year since I started farming and will be there both days this year – which is not too great a problem as the site is only two miles from my home. It is the only “one-stop shop” where every facet of our industry is on display.
I always feel that Cereals is when one really starts looking at the cropping year ahead, traditionally the nitrogen buying season starts at the event and one has the chance to look at new crop varieties before deciding on what to grow next year. As a producer of many seed crops I have the chance to meet contacts at all the seed companies in one place on one day to discuss what their requirements are and what land I have available for them.
I am no great fan of “manicured” plots, but they can act as a good general guide. The working machinery demonstrations are not an area I will spend any length of time at our easy working chalk soils are a far cry from the Garden of Eden at Vine Farm – for us ploughing and pressing remains the cheapest option at present rather than kit the size and length of an Australian road train!
Two areas that will attract a lot of interest this year are energy crops and the BBRO sugar beet area. New and existing beet growers have had the gauntlet thrown down at their feet and must cut unit costs by production efficiencies and getting yields up. The BBRO stand has always been excellent in the past and I am sure will not disappoint this year.
In short there is no better place than Cereals to sample the atmosphere, assess the outlook for the coming harvest and following season, catch up and chat with friends and also to start to plan for the coming season.
For a light-hearted look at a perfect day at Cereals, see Stephen Carr on p.60 of this year’s Farmers Weekly Cereals supplement.