Yield is Vanity; Margin is Sanity

Changes to the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) will exert inevitable financial pressures on farmers and the broader agricultural community.

Indeed, the demise of underperforming and unmodernised businesses is expected to be rapid, particularly without the support of guaranteed, government income.

However, for those businesses examining just how to withstand the tumult of BPS withdrawal, there will be an increasing emphasis on the value of financial margins, as opposed to physical measures of performance such as yield. The Basic Payment Scheme has historically masked poor financial performance.

To maximise revenues from farming businesses, it is important to make an objective evaluation of a farm’s potential. For example, in the instance of an arable farmer, planting crops where they will produce a positive margin, while precluding poor land from swallowing investment, is sound business sense.

But the assessment of land, its calibre and nuances isn’t always simple, and it would be glib to presume that this were the case. There is nothing wrong with producing the maximum yield possible, but the trick is matching inputs to productive areas, to obtain the most profitable return on investment.

This is where advances in farming technology can reap optimum rewards. Indeed, the application of technology to advance the usefulness of data and improve operations is – and will continue to be – transformative.

While many have yield-mapping farming equipment at their disposal, it is my experience that most are yet to capitalise on the full extent of its benefits.

Using geospatial (GIS) technology, it is now possible to extrapolate data from historic yield maps and production costs in a single platform to create a net margin per hectare analysis. A detailed map uses a traffic light system to highlight zones that are underperforming (in red), overperforming (in green), or average (in orange), and is accurate to just 10m 2.

Such a tool can aid understanding of what is going on in a field, where the problems are, how they might be addressed, and how this information can be harnessed for an effective strategy.

With such insights in place, I hope that we see the end of fields filled with a single crop – so often this is neither beneficial to the environment nor the farmer. Instead, I propose that fields would be mixed use, with perhaps a 16-metre stewardship margin adjacent to a hedge, with a three-metre sacrificial strip adjacent to that for the machinery to turn on, minimising the area exposed for compaction.

Other stewardship options could be located on regions of a field that have underperformed consistently, and which are beyond improvement.

Even though it may require a shift in mindset, it is my view that yield per hectare should take second place – it’s profit per hectare that counts.

Agritech is about helping clients to achieve the best possible financial results as well as improving the landscape and protecting the quality of our land for the future.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

To discuss any of the matters raised in this article or speak with a member of the Carter Jonas team about any of your property requirements, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Carter Jonas Oxford

Carter Jonas in Oxford is part of a national, multi-disciplined property consultancy with a network of 30 UK offices, including five in London's West End.

Leave a Comment