OSR area pegged at 13-year low

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Results from the AHDB Early Bird Survey show that Great Britain is on course for another decline in the oilseed rape (OSR) area, to the lowest area in 13 years.

The 2017 OSR area is predicted at 557Kt, down 4% compared with Defra’s estimate of the 2016 area.

Millie Askew, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds analyst, said: “If realised, this would be the fifth consecutive fall in the OSR area but it’s expected that there will be key regional differences. For instance, there has been a dramatic decrease in the East of the country, a 28% decline attributed to cabbage stem flea beetle damages, and a lack of moisture which made establishment very difficult. In other areas of the country (the Midlands, South and Scotland), however, the area sown to oilseed rape has increased.”

Ms Askew added: “The increase in these areas is likely due to the rise in oilseed prices, making oilseed rape an attractive break crop in areas of the country where the conditions are right.”

Both winter and spring wheat combined are predicted to fall 1% on last year to 1.8 million ha, down 4% on the five-year average. Grass weed challenges are the main limiting factor on many farms.

Results from the survey also show that Great Britain may be on track for the second largest spring barley crop on records going back to 1997, behind 2013 which was driven by poor conditions in the previous autumn.

Following the trend of recent years, the area planted to spring barley continues to rise, and is predicted to be 17% higher for harvest 2017 than harvest 2016, at 799,000ha.

Ms Askew said: “The survey suggests that this increase is in areas of GB most affected by black-grass. But also some farmers will have been influenced by poor winter barley yields for 2016. However, it is possible that if the price of wheat continues to rise above barley, some of this area could be sown to spring wheat instead of barley.”

It must be noted that the survey only represents a snapshot of both actual plantings and more tentative intentions at a given point in time. Therefore the results should be interpreted carefully. A number of factors, such as weather, cultural controls and potential crop margins could impact on whether spring planting intentions are realised.

Nonetheless, if the area planted to spring barley is realised we could see higher availability of the crop on the market next season, yield dependant. As such there would be higher availability of the grain for usage by brewers, maltsters and distillers, as well as for animal feed. However, it is important to stress that this is very much quality dependant.

Estimated crop areas for harvest 2017:

• Winter and spring wheat down 1% to 1.8 million ha, and 4%
down on the five-year average
• Winter barley to fall 10% to 397,000ha
• Oats area predicted to fall 8% to 130,000ha
• Oilseed rape area down 4% overall to 557,000ha, although the
area is up in some regions of GB
• Pulses are down 6% to 216,000ha, though still well above the
five-year average

Data for the Early Bird Survey is taken from 262,500ha arable land across the whole of GB, and was carried out by the Andersons Centre and the AICC.

The survey measures cropping changes from harvest 2016 to the current growing season and plans for late autumn and spring drilling.

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