SRCU trials event to focus on growing for the market and boosting margins

Ensuring that Scottish cereals remain “the supply of choice” for the whisky and gin markets will be among the topics discussed at a trials’ event at Cauldshiel Farm in East Lothian next week.

This event is open to farmers and industry representatives. It has been organised under the Scottish Government’s Farm Advisory Service (FAS) programme, delivered by SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The SRUC trial site features more than 2,000 plots grown to provide information for the regional list varieties of wheat and barley, as well as research trials on nitrogen use efficiency, fungicide performance, novel seed treatments and cover crop demonstration plots.

Distillery and milling market

Event organiser Jonathan Black from SAC Consulting said: “Securing the quality requirements for our home markets for malt, distilling and milling will be highlighted at this year’s event.

“Scotch whisky and, increasingly, gin are both great global success stories and they are here on our doorstep. Making sure that Scottish cereals remain the supply of choice for these growing markets is a priority.

With more spring barley being grown elsewhere in the UK to meet greening requirements and control troublesome grass weeds, Scottish malting barley is not always the buyer’s only option.

“The same goes for soft wheat for distilling, so growers need to ensure their variety choice meets the requirements of these markets.”

James Brosnan, director of research at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, will provide an industry view of the technical requirements for cereals in the distilling process.

Brosnan said: “Rising grain prices are welcome, but will need to be maximised given concern over cereal yield potential and higher costs.”

Julian Bell, senior rural business consultant at SAC Consulting, will also highlight how the expected tightening of global and UK grain stocks could affect local grain markets and opportunities for farmers to improve the resilience of their arable businesses.

Pop-up crop clinic

Prof. Fiona Burnett, head of SRUC Crop and Soil Systems, said: “With growers now making decisions on which varieties they sow this autumn, it’s important they have the latest information to grow the right varieties for their customers, reduce disease risk and use an integrated pest management approach to build resilience into their crop and business performance for the year ahead.

“In 2017, we saw a significant shift in varietal resistance to yellow rust and in fungicide resistance to Ramularia in barley, and this year we are seeing changes in mildew levels in wheat varieties.

“Growers are encouraged to take advantage of the ‘pop-up’ crop clinic and bring plant samples for expert diagnosis. For biosecurity reasons, double bag samples and remove any soil – or photograph the problem.’’

The event takes place at 4:45pm on Thursday, June 28, at Cauldshiel Farm, near East Saltoun, Haddington; courtesy of farmers Keith and Scott Maxwell.