Other Arable Crops

The decision about which non-mainstream crops to grow depends entirely on the main focus of the business and whether or not there is a healthy market for the crop, if it is not for home consumption.

Legumes make excellent break crops and leave a further choice of what type to grow. Lupins, clovers and pulses make good break crops, whilst increasing soil nitrogen levels. Most can be incorporated into grass/cereal silages, but detailed cost-benefit analyses need to be done, related to crop performance on particular soils.

N59, Aquila, Spelt, Triticale, Maris Wigeon and even modern wheat varieties such as Clare are grown for wheat "reed", for thatching. The trick for growing a good, strong, long-lasting wheat reed is to use very little nitrogen as this weakens the stems and reduces the life of any thatched roof. As the cost of thatching has escalated, the lifespan of the roof has become more critical. Field Science has expertise in optimising soil mineral levels to maximise the strength and durability of thatching straw and it can become a profitable crop. It involves the use of old reaper-binders and threshing drums or combers, a real "all our yesterdays" scenario, but prices are very good, averaging £750 - £950 per tonne of combed straw. A rough average gross yield would be around 7 tonnes per hectare, which after processing will provide 4 tonnes of thatching straw.
As the crop is harvested whilst still slightly green, the grain content is of low quality and with these varieties, yields are low; but it is suitable for poultry feed and therefore has a value.

Lucerne (alfalfa) is a good, leguminous forage crop which, in the right soil can last up to 20 years, although the average is 6-8 years. Obviously it is unsuitable as a break crop, but can be very cost effective as cattle fodder. It is slightly risky as a feed for sheep however, as it can induce infertility. By optimising soil mineral profiles, our customers have produced excellent, higher yielding crops of lucerne silage with much higher sugar and energy levels.

Spring sown barley varieties are mainly aimed at the malting barley market and attract a premium. An advantage for the grower is that malting barleys need lower levels of protein to assist fermentation and therefore require less nitrogen fertiliser.
Malting barley is used in beer and whisky making and also in a variety of food products. In recent years an old species, Maris Otter, has been revived and refined by H Banham and Robin Appel Ltd. primarily for the real ale market and now commands a premium world-wide.