With demand for spring cereal varieties reaching unprecedented levels over the past few weeks, farm saved seed has provided a lifeline for farmers anxious to get a crop in the ground, say mobile seed processors.
Around the country, mobiles have reported an estimated threefold increase in tonnage of seed processed for spring drilling. Most has been barley, with Tipple, Quench, and Propino showing strongly in the south and Concerto, Optic, Belgravia and Wagon dominating in Scotland, where the final seed lots are still being processed and drilling continues.
Drilling last autumn and winter was impossible in many cases, said Rob White of Dorset-based mobile Evans & Pearce, Chairman of the NAAC mobile seed processing section. That has led to demand for spring varieties completely outstripping supply and eye-watering premiums being demanded for certified seed, even if farmers have been able to get hold of it. Theres no doubt that without farm saved seed, some farmers would not have been able to drill a cereal crop for harvesting in 2013, he commented.
In the West Midlands, Dick Bowler of Reso Seeds Ltd reported an overall increase of 200% in tonnage over last year. Its been the busiest spring weve ever had. Theres quite a lot of feed barley going in, but weve processed 10 times our normal tonnage of spring wheat and oats are also up.
Without mobile processors, there would not have been enough seed to satisfy demand, said Nigel Day of Anglia Grain Services in Suffolk, who reported processing up to 80% more spring barley than in 2012 in varieties Tipple, Concerto and Propino, with overall processing for spring drilling up by 50%.
In the midlands and south of England, John Tisdall of Oxfordshire based CYO Seeds Ltd was still processing spring barley for this years drilling at the end of April. Weve done four times the tonnage we would normally do, 80% of which has been barley. Tipple has been fetching up to 700/t for certified seed, and you just cant get spring barley any more.
Alan Turner of PA & SC Turner Ltd reported that the farmers he supplies in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and S Yorkshire had pushed demand for farm saved barley up by 250%, with Westminster, Wagon, Propino and Tipple all showing big increases. Spring wheat was also up, as well as spring beans. Probably 50% of spring cereals around here are farm saved, he commented.
In Fife and Tayside, Steve Wade of SAS has already processed 85% more spring seed than usual, with 2,600t processed to date, mostly of barley varieties Concerto, Optic, Belgravia and Wagon. Drilling of barley and oats is still going on, so were still processing, he says. A lot of agronomists have advised farmers to increase their seed rates, and were topping up existing customers at present.