Finding routes to better arable productivity

ARABLE farmers have little influence over the prices of the crops they produce, but there remains much they can do to meet the challenge of finding ways to increase productivity.

That was a key message from speakers at the annual Cambridge Arable Technologies (CAT) winter conference, held at Haverhill in Suffolk.

HGCA markets analyst David Eudall highlighted the current uncertainty in grain markets and the impact of world events on wheat prices in the UK: “When it comes to global grain pricing, the wheat market responds to other grains, especially coarse grains such as maize.

“Farmers need to watch US and South American maize markets, including production information from Brazil and Argentina,” he said.

Other factors to consider included the weak euro and the Chicago investment markets.

Inevitably, the weather would play its part and at present the ‘La Nina’ system was causing very dry conditions in key areas such as the Americas and in Ukraine, where there was a severe water shortage. Some forecasters suggest ‘La Nina’ will turn into an ‘El Nino’ pattern, which could bring heavy rain later in the year.

CAT technical director Richard Fenwick told growers at the conference there were areas where they could boost yields. This was particularly true of second wheats, he said.

“National HGCA winter wheat yields showed a difference of 1.5 tonnes per hectare between first and second wheats. We need to look closely at the performance of recommended varieties to see which is the best fit in each location.

“In CAT trials last year, the second wheat drop was less than the national average at 1.0 tonnes per hectare and we will be working on ways of further improving yields, such as through changing the nutrition regime,” said Mr Fenwick.

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