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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Instant selling and a much needed boost

Bean harvest was finally completed on September 9 and yielded better than anticipated at 5.35 tonnes/ha. With no bruchid beetle damage, these were sold instantly as a £108 premium over feed wheat was being offered, so I felt it was too good a selling opportunity to miss.
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Wheat which was sold forward has now had the associated premiums attached, with milling wheat premiums in the £40-£44 range adding a much needed boost to the gross margins for these crops.


The premiums are the result of just 14% of Group 1 wheat in the UK meeting full specification and this, added to the fact they don’t have much quality in Europe, has underpinned these substantial and welcome premiums.


The soft wheat market remains decidedly unexciting, after adding the base feed wheat price to the soft wheat premiums I fixed last year at £8/t, they now seem to be offering just £6 – not enough. If we do not see some decent soft wheat premiums for 2015 and beyond we will look at moving into another variety. I have, however, sold all my milling wheat premiums on a min £25 no max for harvest 2015.


Oilseed rape is fast becoming a crop falling out of favour with me. Flea beetle has been an absolute menace, with four insecticide sprays having being applied to all areas in an effort to keep this pest at bay. How on earth are all these sprays better than a seed treatment?


We have now been through all our oilseed rape area seven times with the sprayer already before we think about Kerb (propyzamide).


This means the fixed cost element of growing this crop has already increased, add to this fact yield will inevitably be lost due to flea beetle damage and it means the outlook for this crop is not looking very favourable with current prices below £250/t.


September saw us miss just about every rain drop in the country, with only 7mm falling for the whole of the month here at Toddington.


This allowed us to proceed with drilling the wheat and barley in good time and into excellent seedbeds. A robust pre-em has been applied consisting of Crystal (flufenacet+pendimethalin), Liberator (flufenacet+DFF), Defy (prosulfocarb), DFF and a wetter, Grounded, plus or minus glyphosate.


As an insurance policy, we have for the first time, applied Avadex (triallate) to the areas most at risk with black-grass so we will wait and see how effective this has been.


Spring bean ground has been ploughed in fantastic conditions by the end of September, and in the two worst black-grass fields we have put a Rexius Twin over one and the subsoiler through the other to create a more suitable environment for the germination of this weed, which should allow us to get a couple of flushes of black-grass before the spring.


We undertook some contract cultivating, drilling and rolling on one field for a good friend of mine. This field has a seriously steep slope which even made our 620 Quadtrac work hard with the Rexius Twin attached, so there was no option but to put the 16-metre rolls onto the back of the 535 Quadtrac as our wheeled tractor would have failed to reach the summit.


Combining costs for the Claas 760tt this season have reduced significantly to £5.42/t partly due to the 9049 (dry) tonnes of grain harvested. I have, over the last six to seven years, costed this machine by the tonne and not per hectare as I feel it gives a more accurate and truer figure.


Some 6.5ha of fallow, which was left at Boughton due to bad black-grass, has greened up very well after having the Vaderstad Carrier shallow cultivate the top 5cm. It has now received its second glyphosate spray to remove both the black-grass and the volunteer barley.

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