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Talking Arable with Jim Bullock: Making planting decisions

One has to be careful what one writes at this time of year (mid-March) as we can go from the depths of winter to very nearly summer in a few hours.

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Talking Arable with Jim Bullock: Making planting decisions #arablefarming

Writing about the waterlogged soils and frosts could all be a distant memory by the time the April edition of Arable Farming is published; by then we might be praying for rain. However, after 40mm last night I suspect it will be very nearly Easter before we can get onto the land again.

 

With only half of the farm planted last autumn (winter wheat) it is a bit daunting looking at acres of spring crops to be planted, combined with the usual top dressing and spraying.

 

See also: Wet season drives down area of winter sown crops

 

When the green light comes on, it’s difficult to know what to do first. Not being big operators we do not have spray men or tractor drivers; what gets done is done by me and my brother.

 

The Canadians have a very short growing season and I understand many do not make their final cropping decisions until a few days before drilling. This is based on potential crop profitability. I find myself very much falling into this camp this spring.

 

The season is going to very much dictate what we plant and I am totally flexible. It will be a matter of deciding on a field to field basis along with yield potential.

 

I have done my sums quite carefully this year and will not be exceeding any of my budgets for each crop. For example I will not be spending large amounts of money on weed control in spring beans.

 

It will be a pre-em, then if that fails a dose of glyphosate in June and the beans will turn into a cover/fertility building crop.

 

I do like the advertising flyers that have been falling out of many farming magazines over the last six months. If you believed the gross margin figures suggested we would be planting wall to wall linseed, or perhaps millet or even soya.

I have done my own calculations using historical yield data and possible crop prices for 2016 and we need to be able to produce: 1.5t/ha of linseed, 2.25t/ha of beans, 3t/ha of wheat and 3.1t/ha of oats to break even.

 

These figures are based on a very low stubble to stubble cost of £150/ha due to most of our machinery being written off and a low land cost of £175/ha.

 

If we do nothing we can bank about £30/ha through the BFP but that is a misleading figure as, with no other income, the cashflow is not so good.

 

Although fallow is an option, to make it worthwhile, it needs to be used as a fertility-building exercise and that costs money.

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