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Benchmarking brings out the best Launching its 4Cast results for ‘Harvest 2016’, ProCam said that, with all the uncertainties facing UK farming, benchmarking of farm performance is more important now than ever before. Dominic Kilburn writes. By analysing farm data collected each year, and over many years, crop protection distributor and advisory business ProCam reckons its 4Cast benchmarking results provide clear pointers for farmers to improve their businesses as well as providing trend analysis for future decision-making. ProCam’s 4Cast system of farm comparison and analysis began in 1994 and the company says that it has “easy analysable” data since 2000, covering over 500,00ha (1.2m acres). Its data for harvest 2016 was taken from about 200 arable farms, most of which are based in East Anglia. Managing director John Bianchi said that every year since 2000, ProCam farmer customers average yields had consistently outperformed the Defra UK national average. “The gap between our top 25 per cent yields and that of the Defra national average is even greater at over 2t/ ha,” he commented. “We can use

the benchmarking data to look and see what the best farms did at any given time and use that information to provide help for those growers’ businesses currently outside the top 25 per cent. “The future beyond 2020 is unclear and so we must help them to optimise their output on farm where we can,” he added.

Delayed drilling Head of crop production at ProCam, Nick Myers (right) gave an insight into what 4Cast’s top 25 per cent of farmers do differently to those ranking below them in the data. In the light of on-going problems with black-grass control, he said that for the 2016 harvested crop, the top 25 per cent performing farms (based on gross margin) were drilling later

overall but also had a more even spread of drilling from September through until November. For the remaining three-quarters of farms, average peak drilling occurred in late September/early October. “The top 25 per cent are drilling when it’s right to drill,” commented Mr Myers. “And with this season in mind, my advice to growers is to be reactive as to what is in front of you when considering drilling and don’t drill too early. “People focus on the importance of the drill or the cultivator, but they must be more flexible and do what is right at the time and what they see in front of them,” he said. In addition, Mr Myers noted that the top 25 per cent are doing less ploughing and more min-till, or noninversion cultivations. According to results, the top 25 per cent of winter wheat growers in 4Cast spent less per hectare on variable costs than the average, yet achieved higher yields and around a £200/ha higher gross margin.

“There was little difference in the split between the types of sprays the top 25 per cent used, but with their higher yields, their costs per tonne spent on seed, fertiliser and sprays were all lower. “This suggests the extra gross margin achieved was down to attention to detail,” Mr Myers stressed. Other factors highlighting differences included more use of heavier land and more first wheats planted (84 per cent compared with 68 per cent) by the top 25 per cent. According to Mr Myers’ colleague, ProCam technical director, Dr Tudor Dawkins, growers questioning whether to continue to plant oilseed rape because of the establishment challenges affecting the crop should take heart from the harvest 2016 4Cast results. “The figures show that OSR was more profitable than winter wheat and the most profitable out of 11 different crops examined,” he pointed out. “Growing winter oilseed rape as a previous crop has also consistently improved winter wheat yield over the past two years on 4Cast,” he added. ■ 07R38B

ProCam customers achieve yields 2 t/ha above the Defra national average*

To find out how you can benefit from ProCam 4Cast big data contact your local ProCam Agronomist.

01763 261592 twitter @procamuk *Average yields of the top 25% ProCam 4Cast customers for winter wheat over the last 17 years.

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