Better information vital for farmers
ARABLE farmers have little influence over the prices of the crops they produce but can still do much to increase productivity, delegates were told at the annual Cambridge Arable Technologies (CAT) winter conference.
Uncertainty in grain markets and the impact of world events on wheat prices in the UK was highlighted by David Eudall, markets analyst at the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA).
“When it comes to global grain pricing the wheat market responds to other grains, especially coarse grains such as maize. Farmers need to watch US and South American maize markets, including production information from Brazil and Argentina.
“Wheat fundamentals in isolation are bearish. The wheat price is being supported by the supply and demand situation with maize,” he told CAT members at Haverhill.
Other factors included the weak euro and the Chicago investment markets. Inevitably, the weather played its part too, with dry conditions causing concern in the Americas and in Ukraine, while water shortages were worrying at home.
On the demand side, Mr Eudall suggested that demand would switch to wheat in the near term, so the price relationship of maize leading the market was likely to continue.
Ethanol demand growth might be curbed by a reduction in US subsidy, so it was unclear whether output would reduce. Overall, said Mr Eudall, farmers faced considerable uncertainty for the 2012 UK harvest.
Arable farmers were accustomed to price volatility but remained areas where growers could boost yield. This was particularly true of second wheats, which were the subject of several CAT trials.
CAT technical director Richard Fenwick said: “HGCA winter wheat yields showed a difference of 1.5t/ha between first and second wheats. We need to look closely at the performance of recommended varieties to see which is the best fit in each location.
“In CAT trials last year the second wheat drop was less than the national average at 1.ot/ha and we will be working on ways of further improving yields, such as through changing the nutrition regime.”
CAT has also been researching inputs costs. Matching inputs to the season is clearly important, with margin over inputs increasing by £50/ha on a lower level “farm input” regime compared with a high input system used in the CAT trials.
Ongoing fertiliser trials once again demonstrated benefits of using urea-based fertiliser including KaN, producing higher yields than ammonium nitrate (AN), even at higher application rates than those used in previous trials.
Reviewing the latest varieties, Mr Fenwick said the proposed new winter wheat Crusoe was a useful addition for the Group 1 grower. Yields were similar to the trusted Gallant and Solstice varieties but Crusoe had better disease resistance and higher protein levels. It is sought after by end-users.
Torch is the highest yielding Group 3 variety, with good brown rust and blossom midge resistance but high susceptibility to mildew and yellow rust. It is sought after by end-users for biscuit flour.