AHDB/HGCA planting and variety survey 2014 shows return to pre-2012 levels of winter plantings

The annual AHDB/HGCA Planting and Variety Survey estimates the total GB area planted to cereals and oilseed rape for harvest this year at 3.91Mha, up 6% from 2013, with the total wheat area at 1.96Mha, up 22%.

Barley and oat areas are down on 2013, while the oilseed rape area for harvest 2014 remains at levels similar to 2013.

AHDB/HGCA Senior Analyst Helen Plant said: “Generally favourable conditions in the autumn of 2013 supported a return to more typical levels of winter crop plantings, after the extremely challenging conditions a year earlier. As generally expected, this has led to a decline in the level of spring cropping. However, it is also worth noting that for some growers the impacts of the extreme 2012 and 2013 seasons continue, because the forced changes to cropping patterns have rotational implications.”

For wheat varieties, the proportion of nabim group 4 varieties continues to increase, accounting for an estimated 58% of the total GB area. Malting barley varieties account for an estimated 60% of the total barley area, while DK-Cabernet remains the most widely grown rapeseed variety for the fourth year running.

Key findings of the survey are:

· Total GB area planted to cereals and oilseed rape for harvest this year at 3.91Mha, up 6% from 2013

· Total wheat area at 1.96Mha, up 22% from 2013

· Total barley plantings down 8% at 1.09Mha but 38% increase in winter barley area

· Oilseed rape area showing little change from 2013 at 719,000ha

· GB oat area down 17% to 144,000ha.

GB wheat area estimated at 1.96Mha – up 22%

The wheat area in particular has recovered from 2013 levels, when the lowest area since 2001 was harvested. At 1.96Mha, GB wheat planting supports the potential return of the UK to export markets this season, after an absence of two years, subject to final yields and quality.

Although a substantial increase from 2013, a GB wheat area of 1.96Mha is still slightly below that harvested two years ago. Smaller increases in the Eastern and East Midlands regions may reflect an increased interest in spring cropping, linked to efforts to control black-grass and some positive experiences from 2013.

“The proportion of nabim group 4 varieties continues to increase, following the trend of recent years and now account for an estimated 58% of the total GB area,” said Ms Plant. “This increase comes at the expense of nabim group 2 and 3 varieties, which have seen lower premiums over the past season. nabim Group 1 varieties regained area lost due the wet autumn of 2012, accounting for approximately 17% of the area, similar to 2011 and 2012.”

In Scotland, the wheat area is estimated at 109,000ha – an increase of 25% from 2013. This represents the highest level since harvest 2011, when the Scottish wheat area reached a record 115,000ha and, subject to final yields, is likely to result in lower regional premiums than have been seen in the last two seasons.

Total barley plantings down 8% on 2013 at 1.09Mha

The total barley planting area for harvest 2014 is estimated at 1.09Mha. While 8% lower than last year, driven by a reduction in spring barley plantings (down 24%), the GB barley area is still larger than those harvested in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“This is because of a 38% increase in winter barley plantings to 421,000ha, representing the largest GB winter barley area since 2003 and echoing the results of the AHDB/HGCA winter planting survey,” said Ms Plant.

The largest percentage drop in spring barley plantings is seen in the West Midlands, down 56% and returning to 2012 levels. In contrast, Scotland shows the smallest percentage drop in spring barley plantings, down 7% to 276,000ha and accounts for 42% of the GB spring barley area this year.

Overall, malting varieties on the Institute of Brewing and Distilling approved list for harvest 2014, account for 60% of the total GB barley area. However, the final malting availability will be strongly influenced by final yields and quality.

Oilseed rape area relatively stable in 2014

The survey indicates a slight increase (1%) to 719,000ha in the area of oilseed rape compared to that for harvest in 2013.

While 5% below the 755,000ha harvested in 2012, the 2014 area would still be the second largest on record. This shows the crop remained popular with growers due to its financial performance over recent seasons and role as a break-crop. However, declines in planting area are noted in some regions possibly due to rotational changes.

DK-Cabernet remains the mostly widely grown variety for the fourth year running, accounting for an estimated 13% of the area in 2014.

GB oat area down 17%

The GB oat area is estimated at 144,000ha. This represents a 17% fall from 2013 levels, when the GB oat area reached a 36-year high but is still above the levels seen in some recent years.

The largest declines, in terms of actual area, are seen in the South East (7,000ha) and South West (6,000ha) of England. In Scotland, the area is estimated at 26,000ha, a decline of 6,000ha from 2013, but still the second largest Scottish oat area (after 2013) since 1994.

Ms Plant commented: “Increased milling demand for oats, farmers looking for an alternative cereal crop and the lower variable costs associated with oats compared to some other cereals, may be reasons behind the oat area remaining relatively strong.”

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