Oilseed rape (OSR) plantings in Great Britain for harvest 2018 have rebounded, according to provisional figures from AHDB’s Early Bird Survey.
Good moisture levels and less flea beetle damage than last year meant there was a favourable establishment period this autumn, so it is expected that less of the OSR crop is likely to be written off as failed crops. This is in stark contrast to the previous two years. The forecast 2018 OSR area includes losses to date.
Following five consecutive years of decline, the forecast area of OSR has increased by nine per cent compared with harvest 2017. This is the first time the area has been over 600,000 hectares (ha) in GB in three years, however it is still 19 per cent below the record area of oilseed rape – which was 756,000 ha for harvest 2012.
Daniel Rooney, AHDB Analyst, said: “Planting decisions will have also been driven by improved gross margins or higher prices, together with poor alternative options for break crops.”
In some cases, OSR will have been the most profitable crop for 2017, therefore influencing areas for 2018.
In contrast, autumn drilling conditions for other crops have been difficult in many parts of the UK following a long and late harvest, slowing the winter plantings and meaning winter drilling has continued later than usual. Typically, under these conditions, the UK tends to see slightly less autumn cropping. Coupled with agronomic incentives for more spring cropping and lower costs of production for some crops, this trend appears to be continuing.
Daniel said: “This means that we are seeing a continued squeeze on the wheat area as well as our ongoing love-affair with spring barley.”
The wheat area is forecast to fall by two per cent, which, if correct, would result in 1.752Mha for harvest 2018 (the fourth consecutive decline in area). This includes spring wheat, which anecdotally has shown evidence of another potential increase in area in 2018 (it has been rising in recent years). The forecast wheat area for 2018 equates to an area three per cent below the last five-year average.
The winter barley area is expected to fall by 9 per cent, while the area of spring barley is anticipated to continue its increase, with the 2018 area forecast to be up 3 per cent at 773,000ha (this is its fourth consecutive rise in area).
Other than for the extreme years of 2001, 2009 and 2013, caused largely by weather events, this would be the highest area of spring barley since 1989. In 1989, the spring barley area was still falling from its highs of around 2.0Mha recorded in the 1970s.
The expected rise in spring barley area for 2018 is probably not all driven by weed control benefits, as it has in recent years. The relative performance of spring barley against winter barley in yield can be very similar but with costs of production lower; also many have struggled with bushel weights on winter crops in recent years.
The area of oats in recent harvests has been above historical averages with a rising trend. However, the area for 2018 is projected to fall, albeit only slightly, by less than 1 per cent to 160,000ha.
Pulses are expected to reduce in area by six per cent, wiping out the gains the crop group had made in the last two years. It is not surprising that peas and beans are losing area, given the change in Greening rules, specifically the ban on pesticide usage in pulses used for Ecological Focus Areas,. Market prospects for beans, even with good human consumption samples, are relatively poor at present, significantly affecting the margin compared to oilseed rape for example.
This year’s Early Bird Survey covers a 79 per cent greater area than previous years’ surveys. Later in the year AHDB will release a regional breakdown and final figures of planting and planting intentions.