Come rain or shine

30 October 2014

Since my last entry, we have had an incredibly dry September followed, of course, by a suitably wet October. The ground got wet very quickly – even on this headland which had had the lifter through it.

PD Blog

Many tried and test strategies were revised – drills came out ahead of black-grass emergence to beat the weather, while some elected to delay or omit pre-emergence herbicides as it was considered too dry. Rape growers found slugs a problem in the dry where the rape was an easy food source and in the wet where slugs could get everywhere!

Time will tell the impact of decisions so far on crop potential. Prudent growers are keeping a tally of costs to date and, based on expected remaining inputs and fixed costs, working out anticipated total costs of production per tonne for the 2015 harvest, based on five-year rolling average yields. This is a figure that can be reviewed after every operation along with a reassessment of the potential yield compared to the 5 year average. This then leads to a discussion on marketing where many are starting to see anticipated costs of production per tonne at or below current market prices. Risk management is going to be a key topic this season.

To use a cliché and to mix industries, “the cream will rise to the top”. It is certainly a good time to be part of a progressive Monitor Farm group. We are now getting ‘stuck in’ to our topic-based meetings to delve into some of the topics raised from the launch meetings. Debating and discussing real business figures from the Monitor Farm and the platform to learn from and challenge fellow growers, is proving popular.

Our recent meeting with Julian Gold reviewed a difficult rape establishment season and considered some of Julian’s strategies to reduce seed costs by as much as 75%, along with some other establishment field operations and spray savings. He is going to try out some of these next year.

Meeting at Julian's farm

We also spent a good period of time analysing the topic of Precision Farming. What are the elements, what works and what are the cost benefit equations?

Our four Monitor Farms are:

  • Crediton – Nick, James and Jonathan Lee
  • Wantage – Julian Gold
  • Bath – Rob Addicott
  • Winchester – Ian Cammack and Andy Bason

Keep an eye out for the progress of our Monitor Farms by visiting AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds/south or following me on twitter @AHDB Cereals & Oilseedssouth



Taunton-based Philip joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds from HSBC Agriculture, where he was Senior Agriculture Manager in the South West region. Having studied agriculture at university, Philip spent seven years as a Senior Business Management Consultant with ADAS before developing his career with HSBC. He brings substantial business management experience to the Regional Team, and a detailed understanding of the complexities of the industry in the region.