Best in Field Harvest 2022 - Winter Beans


Chris and Will Sargent of HP and BK Sargent have been credited with having the lowest cost of production for Winter Beans at £47.20/t. Ross Dawson our Customer Success Manager went up to Norfolk to sit down with the team to understand more about how the farm operates and their future plans.  

So, Will, if you could start us off by telling us about the farm

The whole estate is approximately 2,000 acres, of which around 1,600 acres is cropped. The rest is made up of woodland and grassland. It’s run by my uncle Chris and I, in a partnership. We grow a mixture of arable crops, miscanthus for biomass & produce 49,000 ducks for Gressingham, which we do on a contract basis. We also have a self-storage business, and houses that we let out. So, there's quite a few different things going on on the estate. 

I grew up here but left to pursue a career as a journalist for about eight years, working for the Times and Sky News. The next logical step after that was coming back to farming! Before that, Chris was running the business alongside my father David, who sadly passed away in November 2018. 

What made you decide to grow beans in the rotation? 

Will: We knew they were low cost. We also had the right drill for it, the Claydon, which puts them in really well, without having to do too much to the land. We have a decent track record of being able to grow them well, this year our cost of production came out at £47.20/t but last year we were even lower at £38.54/t all of which helps form the decision on what to grow. 

(YAGRO Market averages for beans 2021 harvest were £61.78/t and for 2022 Harvest the average COP was £63.55/t) 

Chris: We used to plough them in. Which was a bit of a nightmare because you would have to spread what you thought you were going to plough in that day, and if you didn't then you would need to go back, and re-spread and you never knew what was already there.  

Whereas now, with the Claydon, it’s a lot more reliable. 

In terms of break crops, would you say you favour beans over others?  

Will: Yes, we would. In the autumn, I think it works well. This year, the crop has been sold at £303 a tonne for Feed Beans! A great result, at a really low cost. 

It certainly makes sense financially. It cuts out the need for fertilisers, we can drill mainly home-saved seed, and the spray programme isn’t that expensive. It ticks all the boxes for input costs and what you get out of it. The following crop also benefits from the beans so it’s a ‘win-win’ scenario. 

In terms of crop quality following harvest; Have you considered growing the beans for human consumption markets? 

Will: Although we didn’t have much bruchid beetle damage this year, our samples weren’t accepted for human consumption. This market can be very subjective, and we’ve found that we get a good return from the feed beans market without having to be concerned about spraying too many insecticides to keep the additional quality. If we've got an option to not spray for it, we won't, because we'd rather keep the beneficial pollinators. For the 2022 harvest, we didn’t apply any insecticide on the beans. Our chemical applications in general were low, with only £5.07/t or £24.31/ha of fungicides applied too.  

So, plans for next year, do you have more beans going in? 

Will: We’re putting in a similar area to last year, and this year it should have cost even less to put in. The main reason for this is because the land was in such good condition following the dry summer and kind autumn. The majority of that is following canary seed this time, which is a new one for us as we would normally go in after a cereal. It will be interesting to see what the following crop is like after having a two-year break.  

What sort of technology or new developments are you implementing or planning?  

You’ve already mentioned the low disturbance cultivations and the new drill technology, obviously, you are using our YAGRO Platform, anything else new in the pipeline? 

Will: We are continuing our journey to vary our Nitrogen rates. Although we’re using similar amounts in total, we’re able to target the areas that need more and identify areas that need less. We're always trying to be efficient with our inputs, or as efficient as we can be, and not spend any unnecessary money on inputs for the sake of it. We focus on spending money where it's needed. YAGRO Analytics helps us do that as we have full visibility of our variable costs and can then audit our purchasing to create the most efficient cropping plans. The key for us is getting crops drilled at the right time. 

Chris: I agree. Drill timing is the most important thing. You often have such a tight window to get crops into the best seedbed, for example the Canary Seed we grow needs to go into warm soil with good moisture. If we get that right then we’re off to the best start, get it wrong and you could be chasing your tail for a while. 

The final question from me. How do you think you could utilise your data and the YAGRO platform more to make decisions going forward? 

Keeping track of our inputs will continue to be vital, the new ‘Field by Field’ feature that’s coming could be important; being able to break it down by crop and look at what you're spending.  Cost of production, I think, is one of the most important things for all farms to be looking at. And as we've seen with a couple of fields, one of which we’re not cropping this year, by looking at the data, it validated our decision to do so. 

With more regular data updates and keeping a close eye on things through the Tracker feature means we can start forming those decisions prior to harvest and as always trying to find better, more efficient ways to maximise returns from our crops and fields.  

Congratulations to Chris and Will Sargent on their impressive Winter Bean production and being YAGROs Best in Field Winter Beans 2022.