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Spring Cropping - Doing Nothing is not an Option

Date Added: 03/02/2009

By Richard Elsdon – Technical Manager for United Oilseeds

Some growers, particularly those on heavy ground, are considering fallowing ground not planted last autumn on the basis that they do not want to grow a crop that will lose money. This logic may be flawed when the full effect is considered.

United Oilseeds estimate conventional spring oilseed rape to have a gross margin of £295 per ha, while that of Nexera spring rape has an estimated gross margin of £420 per ha. However they do contribute towards the fixed costs of rent, labour, and depreciation which are going to be incurred anyway.

Compare that scenario to that of fallowed land which will receive some glyphosate and probably two or three cultivations but produce nothing. The last time that was tried it was possible to see the tractor wheelings in the following crop all winter due to the damage done to the soil at depth. Not cropping an area just adds these costs on to the harvest 09 planted area with a further negative effect on the bottom line of the business.

The table below shows that all spring crops make a considerable contribution to farm profitability, while fallow just adds to the overall farm costs.

Effect on Bottom Line to fallowing part of the Farm

  Spr OSR Nexera S OSR Linseed S Barley S beans Fallow
Yield (mt/ha) 2.5 2.5 2.1 6.7 4  
Price per tonne (£) 249.00 299.00 240.00 95.00 122.00  
Income (£) 622.50 747.50 504.00 636.50 488.00  
Minus variable costs (£) 327.40 327.40 301.44 443.03 309.62 15.00
Gross Margin (£) 295.10 420.10 202.56 193.47 178.38 -15.00
Minus attributable Fixed Costs (£) 80.00 80.00 80.00 80.00 80.00 20.00
Net contribution to profit (£/ha) 215.10 340.10 122.56 113.47 98.38 -35.00


  • Uncropped land still incurs labour, rent and machinery depreciation costs.

  • Uncropped land retains moisture at depth, giving rise to poor autumn establishment.

  • A relatively low gross margin spring crop contributes to the overall farm income.

  • Yields following cropped land invariably out yield those after fallowed wet land.

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