Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

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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Market report - 8th April 2020

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European markets have steadied this week following a period of considerable price volatility seen last month.

Futures rallied €20 to 18-month highs in March as, amidst the pandemic, panic-buying gripped consumer markets and shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of bread, pasta and fresh meat. However, supply chains responded to the challenge and with supermarkets now restocked, demand has eased and markets are looking at their basic fundamentals for new direction.

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Ensure T1 sprays hit the target

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Disease control this season could be more challenging than normal, given the range of crops that are in the ground. We have everything from early-September-sown crops to varieties such as Skyfall which were still being drilled in early-March. 

Variety and drilling date can have a significant impact on the speed at which a crop develops; in particular the time taken to reach BBCH 31.

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Frontrunner - 3rd April 2020

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We're working hard to ensure we comply with all Government guidance and continue to deliver good service to our customers. This week we published three updates on our website to provide information related to Covid-19 for customers and suppliers, including updates on social distancing and customer service, additional information on payments, invoicing and administration, and information for third party hauliers. 

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Welcome dry weather but implications for liquid fertiliser

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The recent dry weather has been incredibly welcome and has finally allowed drills, sprayers and fertiliser spreaders to roll across the country. But, dare I ask, how long will it be before we're looking for some fresh rain?!

There is clearly a massive variation in growth stage and condition of the autumn crops across the country, but the more forward crops have started to get hold of applied nitrogen and actually look quite good .At the other extreme, some of the most backward crops are not that far ahead of the spring cereals that are now going in the ground. As long as reasonable seedbeds can be achieved and drilling doesn't get delayed, the potential for these spring crops should be good. 

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Market report - 2nd April 2020

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Since last week's global rally, UK futures and physical prices have shed around £8/t due to a downturn in domestic demand and strengthening sterling. Consumers in all sectors continue to weigh up the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses but, with sterling firming and old crop becoming too expensive to export, it feels as though time is on their side.

Supermarket demand for bread, meat and eggs is supporting wheat inclusion for feed compounders around the UK, but industrial flour usage demand has crashed as the public no longer require pre-packed flour based products. 

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Frontrunner - 27th March 2020

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Frontier's number one priority will always be the health and safety of our colleagues, customers and those with whom we have contact during our normal business operations. We are actively and continuously monitoring the situation and basing our actions on the very latest advice from the Government. These actions currently include a range of measures such as minimising the number of people at our sites, colleagues working from home where possible, implementing social distancing measures and self-isolating when necessary. We have also implemented service contingency plans in order that we can continue to deliver a service which is 'business as usual', albeit with some changes to the way we operate. Read the full statement from Mark Aitchison, Frontier's Managing Director, here.
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Can you benefit from bare land?

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​Although the sun is out (as I write this anyway) I recognise that many areas of land are still plenty wet enough, and getting jobs done is tricky enough without getting covered in mud as soon as you hit a waterlogged bit of ground. That said, the upside is that many growers will be reviewing cropping plans on almost a weekly basis to ensure they are reflective of current conditions. 

With potentially 50% of the UK winter wheat crop sown there remains, subject to your area, a significant proportion of land yet to be planted. Spring crop opportunities remain unpredictable so, if some bare land is looking a likely scenario for the farm on which you work, you may want to think about the opportunities associated with it.

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Frontrunner - 20th March 2020

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The impact of coronavirus continues to be the primary driver for financial and commodity markets. World wheat prices saw significant volatility this week, driven by exaggerated moves in foreign exchange rates and high nearby consumer demand. The Bank of England cut UK interests rates to a record low of just 0.1% and, with the British government introducing other financially supportive measures for the UK economy, sterling fell by 6.5% versus the euro. As a result, London wheat futures rallied to new contract highs for November 2020 and, from the lowest to the highest, achieved a spread in prices of £12/t. The euro also fell versus the US dollar, adding value to European wheat prices. Demand for bread products increased as panic buying cleared supermarket shelves, brought millers back to the market, and added weight to the increase in old crop wheat prices.

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Market report - 18th March 2020

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​Currently, the underlying issue for the market is nervousness around global trade execution due to Covid-19. Buyers are still out there (Tunisia and Algeria for example), but usual offers are down in volume by circa 50%.

The kill rate in the broiler (chicken meat) market has increased drastically on the back of shoppers panic buying. The same is also now true of bread; supermarket shelves are empty and the demand for wheat is significantly higher than first forecast. However, this could be the short-term picture. Due to so many individuals stockpiling products, and with the hospitality and leisure industry likely to be heavily impacted by the recent government advice around social distancing, medium-term demand for meat and cereals could be much lower.

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Frontrunner - 13th March 2020

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The impact of coronavirus on global economies has been the overwhelming factor driving wheat prices this week. The widespread panic-selling seen in stocks and shares and crude oil spilled into all commodities, pushing world wheat prices down. 

US wheat futures fell to lows not seen since last September and their losses since mid-January rose to 15%. However, the impact of this on UK wheat futures was reduced as sterling lost ground to the euro following the Bank of England base rate cut of 0.5%.

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