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Steve Heard: With drilling trials over, it is a time to reflect on prices – preferably with a pint

With a newfound strong resolve, I waited to complete our final wheat drilling trials, which had been delayed until October 31. Some valuable lessons have already been learned.

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Firstly, I learned not to conduct end of season experiments in a roadside field adjacent to my own farm buildings and, secondly, not to trim the hedge.

 

Next year I shall plan to be finished at least three weeks earlier, having sown into drier soils. We must, of course, wait patiently until harvest but I would already bet yields have been compromised more by a different establishment than they would have been by any amount black-grass competition.

 

Crops drilled at a more conventional timing already look very well and weed control is above and beyond expectation.

 

My limited observations so far suggest suitable soil conditions for pre- and post-emergence residual chemicals might be far more important than drilling date. Perhaps the later plantings have succeeded by default, as the favourable damp soils provide enhanced chemical activity.

 

The frustrating truth is, however hard we work in the fields and regardless of the attention to detail spent growing and harvesting bumper crops, the final farm profit is dependant so much on the skill or inevitable luck of marketing a commodity at the best possible price. With nobody but myself to blame for these decisions, they become more and more difficult. I could, of course, place a much bigger proportion into a merchant’s crop pool, let them take responsibility and be happy with an average price, but what would be the fun in that?

 

My mood, however, was not improved the other afternoon when I mistakenly clicked open the wrong crop sales folder and found myself staring at our 2012 records. It did not make enjoyable reading.

 

November entries showed milling wheat sales at £242 per tonne and OSR at £380/t plus bonuses.

 

Having contemplated what prices we might have been bid back then for this year’s harvest, I headed for the pub.

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