Seed sales for spring crops are well advanced. Dominic Kilburn gets some expert advice
Seed sales for spring crops are well advanced. Dominic Kilburn gets some expert advice on how the market is shaping up, what crops are interesting growers, and why.Although the race for the 2015 spring cropping seed market is well underway, it seems that those selling beans and peas for planting in the spring have the finishing tape in sight as growers look to adapt their rotations in line with the recently-introduced requirements of the three-crop rule.This, and agronomically-driven reasons surrounding black-grass, have made growers think in a little more detail about their options for planting this season and ensured that some seed sales for spring crops are progressing at a quicker rate compared with previous seasons.Agrii national arable seed product manager, Barry Barker (left) suggests that the area of winter cropping in the ground now, and still to be planted, is probably not vastly different to that of last year’s, although he thinks that some land originally planned for winter oilseed rape might be making room for spring crops.Speaking in early November, Barry said that most of the UK production of spring bean seed had already sold out, something that normally occurs in January or February time ahead of planting and, generally speaking, there had been a big increase in demand for spring beans and peas.”There is a significant increase in spring bean seed production of about 50 per cent, and the indications are that we could be looking at almost double the area.”Pea seed production is up but only by 5 per cent, which does indicate that stocks could easily sell out and there are not many options for importing UK tested varieties,” he commented.”The movement in seed has certainly been very early and the three-crop rule has driven that,” said Barry, who pointed out that with some question marks remaining over low commodity prices, as well as the increase in use and cost of pyrethroids, winter oilseed rape might be a little down on last year making way for some spring pulses.”It’s difficult to judge right now but it could be that it’s down 5-10 per cent (35,000-70,000ha),” he added.”We may also see a small decrease in the winter barley area because of black-grass issues and that could be replaced by spring barley which has yielded well in recent years.”Looking at the seed areas entered for harvest ’14 that will be supplying harvest ’15 spring crops, Barry said that spring cereals are within about 5-10 per cent of the previous year and so supplies should be OK, although it is possible if demand for Group 1 spring wheat Mulika is significantly higher than last year in terms of total sales, then he can see supplies for that variety getting short.”Certified tonnage of spring wheat will go up this year for many of the reasons already stated, and 80-85 per cent of the market will be Mulika. A bit of impetus in growing a quality spring wheat has been driven by the resurgence in the growing of Group 1 winter wheats, namely Skyfall and Crusoe,” he said.”The flexibility of spring wheats means that growers can have seed on farm now and drill whenever they like from November through to March,” added Barry.Spring barley With the likely fall in the winter oilseed rape area to be taken up by pulses, he suggested that there may not be a large increase in spring barley plantings in England this season compared with last. However, with as many as 14 Candidate varieties up for recommendation to the Recommended List, there will be plenty of options for growers.”Propino will be the main English malting variety with Sanette awaiting IBD approval. Concerto will again be grown on a fair area in East Anglia to supply the Scottish distilling market and Tipple remains popular with maltsters,” he explained.High yielding new spring barley KWS Irina is set be in demand on the back of widespread pan-European interest from continental brewers, although its market share will be relatively small for this coming spring due to limited seed supplies, said Barry.
“There’s a whole raft of feed barleys too, but yield from malting types is as good, and so the majority – 75 per cent – of the spring barley market in England is malting types, and I expect that to be more in Scotland,” he said.Supply and demand Openfield national seeds and technical manager, Lee Bennett (left) reckons that those who haven’t bought their spring bean seed by now will find it increasingly difficult to get hold of.
“Everyone has gone into pulses and we’ve seen record sales of winter crops and record forward sales of spring beans and peas too.”It’s a supply and demand driven market,” he warns, “and growers who end up purchasing their seed that has to be sourced from Europe will be paying a high price and, although there are some forward values being mentioned, once the full extent of the pulse crop is known, it could mean downward pressure on the market.”I think it’s fair to say that the pulse option is all but done and growers will pay dear if they join the bandwagon this late on,” added Lee.Highlighting the fact that there is no shortage of seed for spring barley, he suggested growers be more wary of what the consumers want. “I can never see the rationale in growing feed varieties unless it’s for use on their own farm. If grain is going to leave the farm then speak to merchants and see what is wanted. There’s no downside to growing a Propino type variety which, if all else fails, will still give you a big heap.”Equally, there’s no point in growing a brewing type variety if the local market demands distilling. Growers must get close to the consumer and study the risk versus reward of growing for niche markets such as distilling, where spec is harder to meet.”Lee agreed that spring wheat availability was tight on account of the advantages it offers in the battle against black-grass and the fact that (as part of the three-crop rule) it was classed as a spring variety, yet often planted in the winter.He pointed out that there was still some availability of spring wheat feed variety KWS Alderon, however, interestingly, he said that the market was recently seeing a slight resurgence in winter wheat sales because of the open autumn.Lee suggested that the oat market was relatively flat, as was the case for spring oilseed rape. “There’s been a lot of concern about flea beetle in the winter OSR crop because of the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments but it would be worse for the spring crop.”I wouldn’t be growing it for that reason although linseed could be a viable alternative as, despite it being affected by flea beetle, it’s not to the same extent as oilseed rape.”PGRO view Falling commodity prices and increases in pest, weed and disease problems in tight wheat/rape rotations have been the key reasons that many growers have turned to winter bean crops this autumn and are planning for pulse crops in spring 2015, says Processors & Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) chief executive, Roger Vickers (left).”The pulse market has been excellent for the past three to five years, with crops delivering significant margins for farmers. The need for wider rotations to deal with on-farm issues has encouraged strong demand for winter bean seed this autumn and for spring pulse planting next year,” he said.
Spring bean plantings in 2015 are set to rise by 25-30 per cent, he added.Additional impetus for recent pulse crop popularity has been the three-crop rule, he acknowledges, as growers realise they can fulfil their CAP greening and Ecological Focus Area requirements with the crops.”However, the message from PGRO is that farmers should grow pulses because they want to for sound farming reasons, and not just because it’s fulfilling a CAP requirement. We want growers to produce quality crops to maximise their market opportunities,” he stressed.Although seed supplies are tight, Mr Vickers suggested there will still be opportunities for winter beans to be planted this autumn if weather conditions remained suitable, while some spring bean and pea seed is still available.