An analysis of the 2014 harvest shows that oats had the highest net margin of all cereal crops
Analysis of the 2014 harvest by Rural Business Research (RBR) reveals that growers spent less on seeds and fertilisers but more on crop protection than previously, with oats topping cereal crops on net margin.
Looking at the national winter wheat crop, while seed costs were down eight per cent and fertiliser by six per cent/ha; chemical costs increased by 13 per cent, that year.
Ben Lang, from the Rural Business Unit at the University of Cambridge, explained that higher expenditure was mostly on fungicides: “We saw higher per unit fungicide prices combined with record levels of applications. 2014 saw extra applications to battle septoria, yellow rust and powdery mildew, some of which were at highest levels since records began.
“Unfortunately, the increased cost of disease control off-set savings made on seeds and fertilisers.”
A strong performance from winter oats showed them to be a competitive alternative to more mainstream cereals, with the best net margin, -£196/ha (-£79/acre) of cereal crops in the survey, according to Mr Lang.
“Despite low prices in 2015, winter oats continue to be a low input crop; over the last five years they’ve seen the lowest increase in variable costs out of all crops in the survey. They also tend to have lower land, machinery and labour costs, saving money at the net margin.
“It’s also interesting to note that spring wheat; a crop with relatively high costs but low yield was the worst performing cereal, with a net margin of -£376/ha (-£152/acre).
“Certainly the high yields of 2014 helped to off-set lower crop prices, particularly in winter wheat and sugar beet, but only when combined with controlled spending. Our top performing farms tend to have lower than average spending on inputs as well as higher yields.”