GB arable crop area up slightly for harvest 2016, but OSR down 14%

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The area of arable crops for harvest 2016 is up slightly compared with 2015, according to AHDB’s Early Bird Survey of GB farmers’ planting intentions.

The total area of arable crops for harvest 2016 is predicted at 4.53Mha, up 12,000ha on the final June Census Results for 2015. Slightly larger areas of spring barley and oats are responsible for the anticipated increase in total area. There is little change to the wheat area compared with 2015 and the winter barley and oilseed rape areas are forecast lower year-on-year.

Key findings of the Early Bird Survey:

> Wheat similar to last year at 1.8Mha

> Winter barley down 4% to 424,000ha

> Spring barley up 10% to 727,000ha*

> Oats up 13% to 148,000ha

> Oilseed rape down 14% to 565,000ha

> Pulses up 15% to 242,000ha

* This is, of course, a tentative forecast given the crop is yet to be planted

Brenda Mullan, AHDB Market Intelligence Acting Senior Analyst, said: “For next year’s harvest, we are looking at a similar area planted to wheat as 2015, with anecdotal comments suggesting that the area of spring wheat is rising within the total wheat area.

“It appears that the GB barley area is on the rise again this year but with less winter barley planted so far and spring planting still some time off, the true changes in the total barley area remain to be seen.”

The annual autumn survey, based on submissions from a team of agronomists assessing more than 250,000ha of arable land across GB, provides the industry with a first snapshot of national planting decisions.

Submissions take into account growers’ planting intentions as well as crops already drilled and cropping changes on individual farms in GB are taken as representative of national UK changes.

In contrast to last year’s trends, the winter barley area is estimated to be down 4% year-on-year, at 424,000ha for the 2016 harvest. However, the expected increase in the spring barley area, if realised, will more than offset the reduction in winter barley, taking the total barley area to 1.2Mha – 5% higher than 2015.

The 2016 area for oats is expected to increase by 13% compared with 2015, which is similar to the size of the fall witnessed last year. At 148,000ha, if realised, this would be 9% higher than the previous five-year average.

The oilseed rape area is expected to decline in 2016 for the fourth consecutive season to 565,000ha.

Ms Mullan said: “A drop in the area planted to oilseed rape is not a surprise, given the profitability challenges with this crop in recent times. It’s likely that the restriction of the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments has also deterred planting.

“We are continuing to invest in understanding the impacts of the restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments on planting decisions, and will once again be surveying growers as part of our Winter Planting Survey in December. On the flip side, we’ve seen more growers turning to pulses as a break crop, with the pulse area expected to rise by 15%, to 242,000ha.

“Our experience of examining the results of the Early Bird Survey against actual areas later in the season has shown that, in general, the survey results give a good snapshot of areas, particularly for key autumn sown crops in the UK.”

The Early Bird Survey is led by the Andersons Centre, supported by the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.

AHDB Market Intelligence’s December Planting Survey, issued in December with results published in March 2016, will help the industry gain a more detailed insight into plantings for 2016.

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