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Groundswell: Savings to be had with no-till farming

Growers could save up to £130,000 per year in working capital across 500hectares under a no-till system, according to a study by Land Family Business (LFB).

Comparing the Groundswell No-till Benchmarking Group 2018 harvest data with LFB clients under traditional farming systems, Gary Markham, director of farms and estates at LFB, identified investment in machinery per tonne as a key performance indicator.

 

He said: “Labour and machinery costs per hectare were 22 per cent less in no-till operations, averaging £350/ha compared to £449/ha.


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“This shows there’s less money tied up in no-till. We need to look at this from several different angles with working capital being very important to the industry as well.”

 

The Groundswell no-till group averaged £186/ha less in machinery capital and £74/ha in variable costs, giving a capital saving of £260/ha.

“That means on a 500ha farm, the saving is £130,000 in working capital,” Mr Markham said.

 

With a £173/ha saving in cost of production for no-till winter wheat, compared to conventionally grown wheat which was £887/ha, Mr Markham said even though no-till yields (7.28t/ha) were on average 14 per cent lower than conventional yields (8.45t/ha) in 2018, the actual capital tied up per tonne of wheat is lower.

 

He said: “We have less tonnes to sell, but the less tonnes have a higher margin, versus more tonnes with a lower margin.

“So to achieve that same margin, we need 8.4t/ha in conventional farming, but 7.2t/ha according to the no-till benchmark.” Mr Markham added.

 

“Don’t just look at gross margin per hectare, but look at bringing in the dynamics of all the variables together including labour and machinery. Rather than yield is king, think economic yield is king.”

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