Winter oilseed rape looks likely to be the best for tillage margins
Harvesting of winter barley has been very slow but is finally completed. Yields in general were very good with most farmers achieving their highest yields (9-11t/ha) to date. The higher yields were achieved where soil fertility was good, with particular emphasis on potash, magnesium and soil pH.
With the exception of farmers who had their crops sold forward, there is still considerable uncertainty about price. Many are being quoted €148-9/t at 20pc moisture but hope to get at least €160/t.
With reports of low yields and difficult harvesting conditions in many parts of Europe I would have expected stronger prices, but they seem to be determined more by financial markets than overall supply and demand.
There may also be some concern that if other cereal crops produce record yields, similar to winter barley, that there may be a storage deficit. In my opinion this is a year that grain storage will pay for farmers. However, the continued market turbulence is a cause of uncertainty.
With the completion of the winter barley harvesting we are now trying to bale and market straw. Most straw was very wet at harvest and was on the ground for more than two weeks before baling. Some straw was baled before it was fit and heated as a result.
Talk of reduced demand for straw before the harvest fuelled a downward pressure on price. The combination of harvesting difficulties with winter barley straw and likely low yields of spring barley straw, as much of it is very short, should result in improved prices once straw sales start in earnest.
Removal of straw will provide the opportunity to sow winter oilseed rape. Yields this year have been extremely good (4-5.5t/ha) and, combined with the rotational benefits, will likely result in the best margins on many tillage farms.
Merchants are finding it difficult to give forward prices for next harvest with most advising that today's price will not hold for tomorrow.