The real yield

12 August 2014

The anticipation, excitement and reward of a good harvest have always made this one of my favourite times of the year. Not least because of the entertaining pub chat about yields. It’s a well-mannered continuation of the biggest tractor / fastest ploughing theme that keeps everyone going through the winter months.

But for once, the talk of some first wheats on strong land yielding anywhere from 10 to 13 tonnes per hectare may actually be true. (Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be the same story with oilseed rape at a fairly uninspiring average of 3.5 to 4 tonnes per hectare. But let’s keep our attention on the more positive wheat story). Clearly, there will be those with less favourable soil types who are seeing a more typical 8.5 to 10 tonnes per hectare wheat range, but nonetheless, there are definitely barns with grain spilling out the front to be seen in the wheat belt across the east. Is this a  promising oasis on the yield plateau, or an indication of a reluctance to sell at current prices?

As long as these farm record yields are at 15% moisture content and represent a genuine average across the harvested area, rather than just that fertile patch in the middle of one field, such results do show what can be achieved with modern varieties and agronomy, given the right weather conditions at the right time.

East Blog Aug 14

Harvest 2014 – is it as good as it looks? We won’t really know for some months

However, yield monitors on combines are notorious at over estimating. Even the best weighing-in system is rarely 100% accurate, so we won’t know the actual average yields from harvest 2014 until every grain has been sold and delivered over the buyer’s weighbridge. With prices £40 per tonne lower than this time last year, many may be hoping for something better, so we might be waiting for some time for the final results.

But for an accurate assessment of performance, it is worth the wait. Actual yield based on tonnes delivered is a key factor in the calculation of costs of production on a per tonne basis – using estimates distorts the results and devalues the comparison with previous years or other farms.

AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds’ new CropBench+ programme is a very easy and effective tool for calculating costs of production.  But it is only as good as the figures put into it, so we encourage growers to input actuals rather than estimates for a true picture. Why does it calculate per tonne and not per hectare? It recognises the fact that a grower with high costs may be better off than a grower with low costs if they’re also getting higher yields. And that is why the real yield is critical to the calculation.

Finally, my top tip for the month is…check out our cereal sellers checklist, which should help you avoid some of the most common problems.



Tim joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with more than 20 years of farm business experience in the East of England. Based at Huntingdon, Tim previously worked at the CLA, where he was Regional Adviser for the East of England. Trained in agricultural business management, Tim has also worked as a farm business consultant, specialising in the direct management of farms and contracting arrangements.