Leasing out land is now becoming a liability for many tillage farmers
All our concern about developing strategies for BYDV control in the absence of seed dressing have been taken away from us - there has been very little sown before mid October and enough rain to drown any aphid that dared to venture out.
That said it has been a fantastic for slugs and while I have seen little slug damage in emerged cereals, slugs had a great time in oilseed rape.
Virtually all crops have had two applications of slug pellets, with some getting three.
Crops being sown at present are going into dryish seedbeds but with wet subsoils which means compaction risk and shallow rooting if we get drying conditions between now and next April.
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Depth control for sowing is difficult with seed being left on the surface on wheelings or sown to deep between wheelings. Seed left on the surface will attract crows with the potential for huge damage.
Given reasonable good soil conditions I consider that in the Midlands we have until mid -November to sow barley and oats and to mid-December to sow wheat. Sowing from mid-December onwards leaves crops under too much pressure from rain, frost, slugs and crows.
High yields in winter wheat and spring barley saved many farmers this year. We cannot rely on that happening every year.
Unfortunately, with the present cost structures on most farms, there is no indication at present that cereals will make the €170-180/t we need to make crops viable.
Farmers with large tracts of owned land made money, but those who are reliant on more that 30pc of rented/leased land to either draw down their entitlements or justify their machinery costs are coming under increasing pressure.
Crops sown this month into mediocre conditions will not achieve normal potential.
However concerns about workload, now and next spring for sowing and harvest next autumn, is forcing many to forge ahead.
The two/three crop rule under the Basic Payment Scheme is also an issue.
Failure to meet the requirements will result in a penalty on payments unless a derogation is made available.
In 2018 we got a derogation due to spring conditions, but it took months before the derogation was granted by Europe.
Perhaps now is the time initiate the process as there is not doubt that some farms will not be able to sow any winter crops this year.
In order to ensure compliance, the target for all farmers with over 30ha of arable crops is to sow at least 25pc of their total arable area this autumn. That will leave them requiring two crops next spring with the minor crop being at least 5pc of the total arable area.
Entitlements are the cornerstone of farm viability.
Their purpose is to compensate farmers for the vast range of regulations and lower cost structures of competitor produce.
If you are out renting land to draw down entitlements, they can become a liability as you are effectively handing away money that was intended to make the farm competitive.
Crops that are not viable with an entitlement payment will not become viable on expensive land.
Entitlements may look attractive when their value per ha is stated, but when that is converted to payment/ac it becomes substantially less attractive.
Entitlements (including greening) valued at €200 give €81/ac; €300 give €121/ac; €400 give €162/ac and €500 give €202/ac.
Rather than looking to high priced land, the best option may well lie with either leasing out or selling entitlements. There is little merit in having more entitlements than you have ha of land.
The level of owned machinery drives farmed area.
The more owned machinery the less flexibility in reducing rented lands as the machinery fixed costs per acre will increase.
The farmer who utilises contractors or share farming has no such restriction.
Given that most farmers find it difficult to maintain machinery costs as low as contractor charges the only advantage of owned machinery is the guarantee that you have a machine available on the day that you want it.
I have repeatedly highlighted over the past 20 years the potential benefits of forming a machinery ring, but there has been little response.
I will say no more other than that it is an option that should be considered.
Finally, check all soil analysis reports and if absent or out-of-date, arrange to have samples taken and analysed before deciding on your fertiliser programme.
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