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Oilseed rape remains by far the most profitable combinable break crop in UK cereal rotations, according to the latest analyses from the AHDB Farmbench.

An average gross margin of £737/ha over the past four seasons for the 1270 crops included puts OSR more than £150/ha up on the next best performing crop, peas. What’s more, it was the only cereal break to deliver a positive average full economic net margin over this time (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Farmbench – Average Break Crop Enterprise Performance 2017-2020

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Interestingly, however, the Farmbench analyses show OSR profitability is far from all about yields. True, the majority of the enterprises achieving a positive four year margin over all costs (including depreciation, unpaid labour, rent and finance) did so with average yields of more than 3.5t/ha. But a substantial number yielding less than this turned a profit from the crop. And some even did so with at yields as low as 2.5t/ha.

“Looking into the figures in more depth, we can see enterprises on a similar soil type with an almost identical average rainfall making very similar net margins last season from yields of 2.6t/ha and 4.5t/ha,” reveals AHDB Farmbench analyst, Mark Topliff. “What’s more their overhead costs were almost identical (Table).

Table: Farmbench OSR Enterprise Comparisons 2019/20

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“It’s a matter of attention to detail in all the areas of crop management under your control. Particularly the ‘big five’ costs our analyses highlight – fertiliser, crop protection, labour, machinery & equipment and rental value. The fact that three of these – making up 50% of the entire cost – have nothing to do with actual crop performance underlines the importance of managing overheads as effectively as agronomy (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Farmbench Average OSR Enterprise Cost Breakdown 2017-2020

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