Production on a Knife Edge! - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

David Neale Blog

August 1, 2012

Production on a Knife Edge!

The world picture for crop yields with production on a knife edge!

Ten of the twelve major producing parts of the world have weather challenges impacting production. The US is in the grip of one of its worst heat and drought seasons with Maize and Soya under significant yield pressure despite some late rains arriving for Soya. Maize is looking like being one of the lowest yielding for a very long time, this impacts on our wheat price daily. China has just had extensive rains and floods like Japan. What will limit price rises is reduced consumption!

We see the need for improving genetics and crop performance in adverse conditions whether they be in GM or conventionally improved varieties. Soya drives our Rape price to a large part and is in heavy demand.

The UK picture

Need I say more than, it has been the wettest drought on record!

In the North and Scotland it still keeps raining, apart from the top end of Scotland in dry conditions! Harvest has been underway for a short while but it’s still early days. In Winter Barley it’s good to average but with serious reductions where early aphids got in and/or were not controlled. Moistures for now are on the lower side and bushel weights look acceptable. Early OSR is looking average but with small seeds, dry and potentially lower oils! Combines and tractors are getting stuck with soils still sodden and we have a long way to go yet.

Wheat so far has a few good samples and some poor ones – I hope it’s the early picture but I am concerned about ear fertility and the impact of septoria and fusarium, to say the least. Harvest is running behind as we know and that gives concerns about the new season work. Spring Barley equally has had cold and wet flowering periods and blind grain sites can be found in many ears.

Mycotoxins are the unknown but the whole industry is very concerned right now and the next few days will give us an early picture. Keep in touch with grain companies and ourselves regarding intake controls.

Spring Barley gives me concerns with the number of sterile grain sites and fusarium – not good for maltsters or indeed for yields. Added to this is quite a bit of regrowth/secondary tillers being seen.

On all fronts quality samples will be in demand.  

How is your harvest going – email me at

Market impact and what might the consequences for drilling look like?

End users are faced with local and import options coupled with concern about quality and tonnages. Prices are set to rise further but claims are also likely to rise as a consequence. Be careful about testing and look after what you have in the barn (treat the grains like pound coins!). Prepare it for market by screening and samples; remember to retain a sample from each outgoing load. Ask buyers where it is going and what claim levels are.

With any challenge it will be important not to over react on cropping or variety choice without full discussion and a broader, informed view. With our extensive R&D programme, trials and plots around the UK make use of the data our agronomists can provide.

Delays in harvest and wet/difficult seedbeds will be drivers up to autumn drilling. Slugs will be in high numbers and remember the aphid problems by treating seed with Deter. Rust ratings will fall so discuss seed treatment options for early autumn control. Consider variety drilling date suitability with appropriate seed rate advice to harmonise with Blackgrass work.

For sure we may anticipate some extra spring cropping – again weigh up the options carefully and consider the on-going consequences.

Our R&D Commitment

With the announcement at Cereals of over £10 million new R&D investment over the next five years we are working to ensure you have the answers and solutions to help management decisions for the future.

We want to ensure we are doing what you want so please contact us and reply to me with your concerns and requirements. Your agronomist will be keen to discuss your thoughts and ideas.

Finally down on the farm, Cotswold way

We have reduced sheep numbers for this coming year and getting back in to OSR with early maturing Excalibur Hybrid for best vigour. Barley is cut and yielded well at around 3 tonnes per acre at 11% moisture and good straw. The quality of horse hay is another matter and has changed to a two crop in one situation although the heat has helped make a good looking bulk? No good for the racehorses this year!

At one point we had five Red Kites overhead looking for mower kill, some sight to behold! Buzzards and sparrow hawks all competing and Reynard looking for night time feeds! We are desperate to see more butterflies and moths in all the headland strips.

Now for the wheat in 2 weeks’ time!

AND NOW FOR THE OLYMPICS!  Have you got the fever or just a good dose of rural hay fever!

Maybe Boris could help the hard pressed livestock sector? At least I am delighted to see the food commitment to Red Tractor products.

You can email David your comments and opinions via

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