Know Your Costs

Small plant; big root – Andrew Ward oilseeds should still thrive!
Small plant; big root – Andrew Ward oilseeds should still thrive!

All farmers should know their own production costs and not rely on the averages often quoted in the industry, a group of Hungarian journalists visiting Great Plains’ Sleaford factory heard.

Andrew Ward, who farms at Leadenham, a few miles West of Sleaford, explained how he calculates the full costs of every farm operation so he knows how much each crop costs to produce.

In particular he highlighted the savings – both in terms of time taken and financial cost – that he has achieved by moving from a fully plough-based system to non-inversion tillage.

For establishing wheat he previously used a five-pass system that included both ploughing and power harrowing that took 186 minutes/hectare to run and cost £144/ha.

When he moved to a non-inversion system including Simba’s Solo cultivator and and Freeflow drill that dropped to just 60 mins and £83/ha.

Similar savings were made on other crops, with oilseed rape establishment being cut from seven operations that took 152 mins and £109/ha to just 49 mins and £69/ha, while sugar beet establishment figures fell from 189 mins and £148/ha to 84 mins and £119/ha.

But even his system is not weather-proof, he admits, as he has something like 100 hectares of spring barley to put in this spring into land that was planned to be sown to winter wheat.

Despite the harsh winter, he says even what look like backward oilseed rape crops should perform well:

“Providing the soil structure in the root zone is correct, then even backward-looking crops can thrive. When we remove sample seedlings to examine them, we find that while they may have just a few centimetres of plant showing above the surface, but underneath there is a healthy root system and the plant will recover very quickly when conditions improve”.