Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

Frontrunner - 29th May 2020

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Damaging heat and prolonged dry weather coupled with a fall in the value of sterling versus the euro have driven wheat prices higher again this week. Since the beginning of May, London 2020 wheat futures have gained almost £15/t. This is a particularly impressive performance when compared to French wheat futures, which, over the same period, have increased by little more than €3. Unfortunately, not all farmers will benefit from this. The prolonged wet drilling conditions throughout the autumn and winter period prevented planting in vast areas of the country and will result in the smallest UK wheat crop since the 1970s.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

Read this week by Farm Trader, Luke Cox.

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Frontrunner - 22nd May 2020

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World wheat markets had a poor start to the week as traders digested the bearish United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Supply and Demand report published last Tuesday. The report signalled ample grain supplies for the coming season and US wheat futures fell to lows not seen since last September. However, prolonged dry weather is adversely affecting the wheat production prospects for some of the primary producers across the Northern Hemisphere and leading officials and analysts to lower their crop estimates. This triggered a wave of buying mid-week and wheat futures rallied sharply.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

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Milling wheat - final decisions

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As I write this, glancing out of the window to look at blue skies over dry soil, it's all too easy to forget the extremely wet autumn and winter we all endured. Clearly, this posed a massive challenge for establishing autumn crops and has led to one of the smallest winter wheat areas we've seen for decades. 

It did, though, also cause large amounts of mobile nutrients like nitrogen and sulphur to be leached out of the soil, meaning we started spring growth with very low levels naturally available. Indeed...

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Frontrunner - 15th May 2020

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This week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its World Supply and Demand Estimates for May, which included its first look at the 2020/21 season. An increase in supply exceeding demand is anticipated, which will lead to increased year-end stocks for both wheat and corn. 

Corn production in the US - the world's largest producer - is predicted to jump significantly. By the end of last week, US farmers had drilled over two-thirds of the planned corn area. The area planted is expected to increase by over seven million acres on last year and yields should increase by over 6%.

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Carbon Farming: Part Three

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​In our last two carbon management blogs, we've been talking about the role agriculture plays in annual carbon emissions and the ways in which growers can reduce their environmental impact through natural capital management. 

Now, while many farmers are choosing to take progressive steps towards carbon management, the law also obligates conventional farmers with over 15 acres of land to create Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs)...

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Market report - 13th May 2020

Grain

Weather in the Northern Hemisphere continues to underpin grain prices, particularly ongoing dryness in some of Europe's key wheat-producing regions. Much of Northern Europe, the Baltics and Southern Russia have seen very little rainfall with the latter receiving just 5-20mm this week, so crops are continually being stressed. Consultancy, SovEcon, said on Friday that despite some recent rain, the extended drought period left irreversible damage to some crops which will result in lower output.

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Are you making the most of biomass imagery?

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Unlike some of the advances in precision farming, biomass imagery doesn't require specialist or expensive equipment. In fact all that's really needed is a computer and a desire to discover some information that could be of value to your farm business.

Surprisingly, however, there are a number of farmers who are not fully utilising biomass imagery and its benefits – but why the reluctance?

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Frontrunner - 7th May 2020

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Following a period of beneficial rain for much of the UK, northern Europe and countries in the Black Sea region, world wheat markets continued to fall earlier this week. London wheat futures lost all gains made during March and April as wheat crop production worries reduced. Improved supply prospects weighed on prices as well as freshly published estimates for reduced demand due to the impact of coronavirus. The latest EU balance sheet from Brussels cut approximately two million tonnes each from both feed and non-feed demand.

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Carbon Farming: Part Two

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This is part two in our carbon management blog series. To read part one, click here.

Farmers are in a unique position of having great power to implement carbon sequestration measures. Carbon sequestration is the technical term for carbon capture. Carbon can be captured in the oceans, in natural rock formations, and in the earth. As an industry that deals heavily in soil management, agriculture is in a unique position for optimising on carbon sequestration opportunities.

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Frontrunner - 1st May 2020

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Prolonged dryness has been adversely affecting wheat crops in the UK, northern Europe and the Black Sea region. This has helped support world wheat prices in recent weeks. This week, however, saw a change to weather patterns as low pressure systems sweeping in from the west brought much needed rain and relief to stressed winter and spring wheat fields. Confidence that notable yield losses may have been avoided triggered a wave of selling on futures markets. Buyers stood aside and prices dropped to eight-week lows. It remains to be seen how beneficial this rain has been.

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Carbon Farming: Part One

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Carbon farming is a 21st-century buzzword and the pressure is on for modern farmers to take account of their carbon footprint. However, this drive to 'go green' can seem at odds with the commercial objectives of a profitable farm.

Yet, none of us can escape the inevitable changes ahead. The government has committed to the goal of a carbon-neutral UK by 2050. This is an increase from the 80% reduction in greenhouse gases that was agreed to in the Climate Change Act of 2008.

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Market report - 30th April 2020

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World consumption of oils is forecast to decrease by up to 500,000 tonnes compared to that seen in 2019, due to less biodiesel and food demand.

In the UK, vegetable oil demand remains weak due to the reduced requirements from restaurants and the wider food industry. With lockdown and social distancing guidelines still in place, it is not known when this demand may pick up or return back to 'normal' levels, although it is thought to run through until the second half of 2020 at least.
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The value of a sound crop protection program

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​Over the past decade, we have seen many new fungicide actives tested and have also lost many others from the store as they are revoked.​

As growers start to look closely at fungicide programs for their winter wheat crops, it is interesting to look into the yield trends generated in Frontier's 3D Thinking trials to see where the contribution to overall yield will come from during the growing season.

The 3D Thinking program has always studied fungicides, their effect on yield and how to maximise the value gained from them.

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Ramularia leaf spot in barley – life after chlorothalonil

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Ramularia causes leaf spot symptoms in barley. While it has typically been more of an issue in the north of the UK, it is now being reported with increasing frequency further south. The disease has historically been a bigger issue in spring barley but the economic losses in winter barley are now an increasing problem too.

The disease has a complicated life cycle and is seed, air and trash-borne. The fungus, Ramularia collo-cygni, causes ramularia and grows from infected seed. It then moves systemically within new plant growth. Airborne spores produced on trash and crop debris can also infect plants.

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Frontrunner - 24th April 2020

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Wheat markets rallied sharply earlier this week, recovering much of the previous week's losses. Attention turned away from loss of demand due to the impact of Covid-19 to problems with supply, especially in the ethanol sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation stated that grain exports would cease once the seven-million-tonne quota they set for the last quarter of the season was reached. It is thought that 3.5 million tonnes of that has already been shipped. Over one million tonnes is being loaded at Russian ports each week, meaning the quota will be surpassed early May.

The Ukraine is also close to meeting its wheat export quota of 20.2 million tonnes, having now shipped 18.5 million tonnes. It is also reported to be considering limiting corn exports to 29.3 million tonnes while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has targeted 32 million tonnes.

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Countryside Stewardship can help with difficult-to-farm areas

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In our industry, we might be forgiven for thinking 'we've seen it all' at times, but nothing could have prepared anyone for the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it is having on our lives, both at home and at work.

Reducing the risk to our customers and team is our number one priority, so we've been adopting new ways of working to make sure we're still able to support growers and provide valuable technical advice from afar. Who would have thought that a combination of phone calls, video conferences, and social media platforms could help us to safely deliver our services to farm businesses of all shapes and sizes?

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Frontrunner - 17th April 2020

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Prolonged dry weather in parts of Europe, Russia and Ukraine has resulted in dry soils that are well below average. This has been a strong supporting factor for wheat markets in recent weeks. However, rain arriving in the western side of Europe, as well as Russia and eastern Ukraine, has eased concerns for crop development in those regions. Meanwhile, analysts have been assessing the impact of coronavirus on wheat demand in the milling, animal feed and ethanol sectors and have adjusted their balance sheets accordingly. Last Thursday afternoon, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cut both world wheat and corn use by approximately five million tonnes each. This raised year-end stocks for each commodity by the same value. European analyst Stratégie Grains published its EU balance sheet this week, cutting two million tonnes from last month's estimate of EU wheat use this season and almost three million tonnes for the 2020/21 season.

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Market report - 16th April 2020

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With the Covid-19 pandemic still impacting trade around the world, grain prices remain volatile. The Frontier pools are the ideal vehicle to help growers manage their risk and, with spring drilling completed by many in good time following the dry weather, now is a sensible time to consider available end markets for your growing crop. This is especially true for spring barley; with a record crop looking likely this season.

The pools are set to close Friday 17th April. Read on for the latest market developments and for help with committing a proportion of your 2020 crop.

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Frontrunner - 9th April 2020

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The UK wheat market has been less volatile than it was last month, making small gains and recovering some of last week's losses. French wheat futures rallied €6 to highs not seen since August 2018. This has been encouraged by the fast EU export pace, which reached almost 25 million tonnes – 67% up on last year and closing in on the season's target of 31 million tonnes. France had its biggest March soft wheat export programme to countries outside of the EU for ten years, despite the logistical challenges brought by the coronavirus. UK wheat prices were capped by firmer sterling and the weight of the old crop surplus that is unlikely to be shipped and will need to carry into next season. New crop prices are supported by the continuing dry spell and increasing temperatures, not just in the UK but across western Europe and extending into eastern Germany and Poland. Crops will become increasingly stressed without rain.

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Fungicide strategies as we approach the critical spray timings in winter wheat

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There are no "blue prints" when it comes to cereal fungicide strategies. In fact, all plans should be under constant review based on risk assessment, factoring in variety, drilling date, weather, geography and spraying capacity.

One legacy of the winter we are just coming out of is that crops vary significantly, both in terms of growth stage and current levels of disease. Generally, septoria pressure is low due to so many crops being drilled much later, but the disease can still be found as a result of the mild, wet winter.

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