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Frontrunner - 23rd May 2024

Further cuts to Russian 2024 wheat production estimates and concerns for Ukraine output have reignited speculative buying interest, sending futures markets higher and setting new recent highs. Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat rose to its highest since August 2023 and French wheat futures to their highest since February 2023, whilst London futures struggled to match the pace as sterling continued to appreciate versus the euro.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Lucinda Redgate. 

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Winter bird food plots – considerations for spring 2024

The impacts of the recent difficult weather conditions have had some devastating effects on many farms across the country. It's no surprise the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and other public funding opportunities, such as Countryside Stewardship (CS), are at the forefront of many people's minds.

Whilst incorporating an SFI action or a CS option into your rotation can be a great remedy in the face of a challenge, there are a few important things to consider. In this blog, I'll be focusing specifically on the AHL2: Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land action in the SFI and the AB9: Winter bird food option in CS. I'll be covering some tips and recommendations for seedbed preparation, establishment, agronomy plans and methods for destruction on these options.

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Frontrunner - 16th May 2024

Last Friday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its first grain balance sheet estimates for next season.

World wheat production is seen higher by 10.5 million tonnes on the year to a total of 798.19 million tonnes, but corn will be lower by eight million tonnes to a total of 1.22 billion tonnes. Increases in consumption for both wheat and corn see stocks falling by 4.2 million tonnes and 800,000 tonnes respectively by the end of next season.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by agronomist, Alex Pope. 

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Frontrunner - 9th May 2024

After a sluggish start to the year, wheat prices experienced a remarkable turnaround in the last days of April, surging to multi-month highs. Speculative funds, which had previously driven prices lower by building record short positions in wheat futures markets, reversed their stance.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by Marketing Assistant, Becca Russell. 

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Crop nutrition considerations for maize

Earlier this year, we published a blog about the benefits of growing maize in your 2024 rotation and how the crop can deliver a gross margin equal to a first wheat. We mentioned the positive market opportunities for home-grown maize and the Sustainable Farming Incentive actions that could be incorporated with the crop.

In light of the challenging weather we've faced this winter and early spring, maize could be a great alternative cropping option. Whilst maize can be a very successful crop, it will need looking after just like any cereal crop. In this blog, we'll be highlighting what you can do nutrition-wise to ensure your maize crop receives the boost it needs early on to perform well further down the line. 

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Late nitrogen management

If you read my recent blog, you'll be fully informed of how to check the nutrition status of your crop. Attention now turns to final nitrogen applications which will need to be as efficient as possible to make up for this seasons low levels of soil nitrogen.

Your crop requires as much support as possible right now and in this blog I'll be guiding you through the techniques you could implement to ensure this.

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Frontrunner - 2nd May 2024

Last week, speculative fund short covering took UK wheat futures to their highest levels in 2024 so far. Prolonged dryness and temperatures in the high 20s across much of southern Russia and east Ukraine were the primary price drivers.

However, cooler temperatures and rain over the weekend means buyers have taken a step back and sellers are keen to take advantage of these attractive prices – this has taken markets lower again.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Lucinda Redgate. 

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Managing your soils this season

There are a number of topics this blog could cover: the weather, inputs, grain prices, environmental options… the list goes on. But, as we make our way through this spring, I think it's worth acknowledging the continuously changing agricultural landscape and some of the routes for navigating it. I think we'd all agree that in our industry it often feels different from one day to the next, with new opportunities and challenges abound all while we're simultaneously trying to digest the latest updates.

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Frontrunner - 25th April 2024

In an eventful week for the wheat markets, speculative fund short-covering spurred a sharp ascent, propelling London November 2024 wheat futures past £200/t - their highest level since 10th January. Geopolitical tensions and weather fluctuations initially fuelled the surge, although values retraced mid-week. Escalating missile attacks on the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa by Russia over the weekend, coupled with the US government's proposed $61 billion support for Ukraine's war efforts against Russia, prompted speculative funds to reduce their near-record short positions in global agricultural futures markets.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by agronomist, Alex Pope. 

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Frontrunner - 18th April 2024

Last week's United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report brought minimal shifts in the global wheat landscape. While world wheat production saw a slight increase to 787.36 million tonnes and consumption rose marginally to 800.1 million tonnes, end stocks dipped to 258.27 million tonnes. Notably, the adjustments made for India hint at a potentially bullish scenario for world wheat markets.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by marketing assistant, Becca Russell.

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Crop nutrition check – preparing for year ahead

Following on from a previous blog about early nutrition strategies, unfortunately due to continued wet weather there has been limited opportunity to complete many field applications. For some, this has been very 'stop/start'. For others, it's been absolutely impossible to get out in the field.

Many of you will be looking for guidance on how to manage the impacts this is having on farm. Let's look at some pointers on how to keep an eye on crop nutrient health as we enter into a period of peak applications and big biomass growth.

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Frontrunner - 11th April 2024

The latest weekly crop condition and progress report from the US highlights a positive outlook for production potential. Winter wheat maintained a steady condition, seen 56% 'good/excellent', which is unchanged on the week. However, this is significantly higher than the same period last year when just 27% of the crop was seen looking this well. Kansas is the number one producing state and edged one point higher on the week, to 49% 'good/excellent'.

Spring wheat and corn planting is off to a good start with the US spring wheat area 3% planted, as expected, up from 1% last week and last year, and unchanged from the five year average. 

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Lucinda Redgate.

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Frontrunner - 4th April 2024

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) presented a bullish set of data before the Easter weekend and sent futures prices higher.

On 1st March, US wheat stocks were marginally higher than average expectations at 1.087 billion bushels versus 1.044 billion bushels. This was also up on last year which was 0.941 billion bushels.

The surprises for the market didn't come from the stocks though, rather it was the lower-than-expected 2024 US corn and US winter wheat prospective planted areas. Winter wheat is seen down to 34.135 million acres which is at the bottom end of trade guesses - these ranged from 34 million acres to 38.37 million acres and notably the Ag Forum estimated 34.425 million acres. 

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by agronomist, Alex Pope.

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Frontrunner - 28th March 2024

World wheat futures markets enjoyed a short-lived price spike at the end of last week. Early on Monday, follow-through buying took Paris futures to their highest since 7th February and 22 euros above the contract low seen earlier this month. Prices rallied following the news that the largest private Russian grain exporter was in dispute with Russian authorities and was not being issued with the appropriate documentation to allow vessels loaded with grain to sail to their end destinations.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Lucinda Redgate. 

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REMINDER: The new urea application rules for England are almost here

Many of you will be aware of the urea stewardship scheme due to come into force in England from 1st April 2024, however, for some there are still questions as to what the new regulations include.

Back in May 2023 when an early announcement was released about the rules, I outlined everything you needed to know. In this blog, I think some of that information is worthy of a recap, particularly why Defra is focused on the stewardship of urea fertilisers, as well as a reminder of what you need to do in certain scenarios to stay compliant with the regulations. 

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Frontrunner - 21st March 2024

Speculative fund short covering has driven wheat futures higher in recent days, led primarily by gains in the Paris market. The May 2024 contract breached €200/t on Tuesday which was the market's highest level since 27th February 2024.

The funds had built record short positions in the Paris wheat market but improved physical wheat demand, Black Sea supply concerns and EU political moves have been the catalysts to trigger a need to reduce the exposure to potentially higher prices.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Lucinda Redgate. 

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Specialist and environmental crop mixes: The importance of quality seed

When it comes to specialist mixes and crops designed to deliver specific benefits to the environment and wider farm or estate, making sure you're using high quality seed is paramount. If not, you could be looking at some unwelcome issues, increased time and effort spent managing your crops, poor performance overall and even putting the wider rotation or environment at risk.

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Learnings from sugar beet fungicide and biostimulant trials

Last year I shared some advice in this blog about managing sugar beet to optimise yield, and in it I contemplated what kind of results the autumn was going to bring given some of the widespread late planting we saw.

Now that we're well into 2024, it was great to see the majority of sugar beet crops doing well throughout the tail end of last year. However, for many crops harvest was delayed until January 2024 due to the wet autumn and frosts in early December. 

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Frontrunner - 14th March 2024

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) late last Friday afternoon, trimming end stocks for both world wheat and corn which helped to lift prices.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by agronomist, Alex Pope.

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Frontrunner - 7th March 2024

Earlier this week, both US and French wheat futures fell sharply again and struck new contract lows.

Wheat futures have nearly lost half their value from their peak in May 2022 and are under pressure from abundant world wheat supplies and cheaper export sales from Black Sea origins. Offers are reported to have fallen below $200/t FOB – the sterling equivalent of £157/t for milling quality on a vessel at a Black Sea port. 

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Sophie Whiteman. 

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