The annual AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds Winter Planting Survey has shown a 5% area decline for all of the four major winter-sown combinable crops save for winter barley.
The survey covers some 12% of the area of these crops harvested in 2015, and measures the crops drilled by December 1st 2015 across England and Wales – full UK figures should be available by the end of March.
As autumn 2015 planting conditions were generally favourable, the AHDB attributes the changes to economic and agronomic factors.
The wheat area of 1.66mha is 3% down on the total wheat area harvested in 2015, after allowing for late winter and spring crop drillings.
Winter barley at 376,000ha is 2% down on the 383,000ha harvested in 2015, but above the AHDB planting survey figures at the same stage of 2014 and 2013. The Board says it is a historically high level, although there are regional differences.
The oat area for England only is estimated at 76,000ha, 5,000ha lower than the 81,000 for England only a year earlier, and 23% down on the total area of oats harvested in 2015.
Oilseed rape plantings in England only by December 1 are estimated at 548,000ha, a 10% fall on the 611Kha harvested in England in 2015, of which 605,000ha was winter sown. This points to the lowest oilseed rape area since 2009, when the total planted area was 536,000ha, of which 493,000ha was winter sown.
The fall in winter wheat and oilseed sowing is likely to translate into a larger spring barley area, the fourth consecutive increase in the hectarage of this crop in the UK.
“Market conditions continue to challenge the economics of the whole rotation, but especially oilseed rape, which shows the largest declines year on year,” comments AHDB senior analyst Helen Plant. ”While still an important break crop, the fall in area shows the increasing risks of growing oilseed rape are outweighing the potential rewards on offer from current forward prices.
“Increased interest in cultural controls for weeds and diseases, particularly black-grass, is also potentially a factor, along with continuing impacts of the three crop rule – acting as an incentive to hold land back for spring cropping or indeed fallow. The higher yields of winter crops are also worth comparatively less at lower prices – increasing the incentive to plant spring crops.”