Price forecasts have brought some realism to conacre market
The modest price predictions for this year's harvest has brought some element of realism to conacre prices.
Bidders are accused of 'insulting' land with their realistic price offers. However it must be remembered that the recommendation in the past has been not to pay more than the price of three quarters to 1 tonne of grain for land. There is no reason for that advice to change this year. Where higher prices are paid it can only be justified by doing so in order to draw down entitlements. The option of leasing out entitlements makes far more sense.
Mid March brought a much needed break from rain and the opportunity to catch up on the first split of fertiliser, trace element application and weed control in winter crops. Obviously all costs will have to be managed carefully this year, but small economies, without well assessed management can have a serious yield penalty.
There is no substitute for well-planned fertiliser, weed and disease control programmes. Last year's heavy crops have removed more nutrients that must be replaced - every tonne of grain (assuming that straw was also removed) will have taken 3.8kg (7.5 units) of phosphorus and 11.4kg (23 units) of potassium. Failure to replace that this year will result in a reduction in soil fertility, which most land cannot afford.
The reduction in soil fertility in recent years can certainly be attributed to inadequate replacement of what has been removed. There have also been suggestions that part of the problem may also be due to a deterioration in soil biology.
We are highly reliant on a large range of soil organisms for the release and availability of nutrients. The response to your land management, which has generally been about fertility and avoidance of compaction, is down to earthworm activity and a whole range of microscopic organisms.
Following the mild winter there is a suspicion, and indeed some visual evidence, that disease levels are likely to be high this spring.
We are a long way off the T1 spray in winter wheat at the end of April, so T0 consisting of chlorothalonil possibly with a strob or morpholine will be necessary in most crops. The big emphasis in all spray programmes must be on protecting fungicides from resistance build up. You must not apply a single active ingredient at any spray timing.