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UK- Oilseed rape area down and spring barley area up, according to AHDB planting surveyqrcode

Jul. 13, 2016

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Jul. 13, 2016
The 2016 AHDB Planting and Variety survey shows an increase in the area for harvest of oats and spring barley in Great Britain. Oilseed rape (OSR) in England and Scotland has seen a 9% decline. Winter barley and wheat areas have also declined.

The survey shows a 6% increase in the area of spring barley for harvest 2016 in Great Britain. In terms of the total cereals and oilseeds area, this increase is more than offset by the sharp decline in OSR area for a second year running, plus slightly lower winter barley and wheat areas.

Isobel Robinson, AHDB Market Analyst said: “Spring barley looks to have benefitted from a common trend across the country towards spring cropping, likely influenced by economic factors and efforts to control black-grass and broader agronomic issues. The prospect of historically poor market returns at planting was likely a key factor behind the lower oilseed rape area.”

Key findings of the survey are:

•    GB wheat area down 2%, at 1.8Mha
•    GB winter barley down 2%, at 426Kha
•    GB spring barley area up 6%, at 682Kha
•    GB oat area up 4%, at 135Kha
•    English and Scottish OSR area down by 9%, at 591Kha


GB wheat area estimated down 2%, to 1.8Mha

Overall, the survey shows a small decline in the wheat area planted for harvest 2016. As a result, unless we see particularly high yielding crops this season, it is likely that production levels will be down on the year.

However, there are regional differences. In England, the wheat area has declined by 2% to 1.66Mha which is the lowest area since 2013. A possible driver for the decrease could be growers exploring different rotational options and reconsidering the value of planting marginal land at current prices.

In Scotland, there has been a differing trend, with the highest wheat area since 2011. Our survey estimates that the Scottish wheat area is up by 4% from 2015 to 114Kha drawing area from barley and OSR.

Looking at wheat varieties, nabim Group 1 and Group 2 varieties have seen a resurgence this year. Group 1 and 2 varieties together account for an estimated 31% of the total GB wheat area, noticeably higher than 2015, when they accounted for 23%. This is the highest proportion since 2010 and probably reflects the introduction of newer, higher yielding varieties, including Skyfall and KWS Lili, which also offer greater flexibility in marketing.

As a result, Group 3s have felt the squeeze again this year falling to 5% of the GB area, four percentage points lower than 2015. However, they could regain some market share in 2017 due to new high yielding varieties on AHDB’s Recommended Lists.

Group 4s, while retaining their majority share, have also seen a decline to 58% of the GB area compared to 63% last year. Falls were seen for both Group 4 hard and soft wheats.GB spring barley area up 6% to 682Kha

GB spring barley area up 6% (at 682Kha) and winter barley down 2% (at 426Kha)

GB spring barley plantings for harvest 2016 have seen an increase of 6% since 2015. This takes the area to 682Kha, the highest since 2013 when wet winter conditions caused a spike in spring plantings. This growth seems to be part of a general trend towards spring planted crops due in part to interest in cultural control measures for agronomic challenges, such as black-grass and better relative economic returns.

Again, Scotland differs to the trend in England. Spring barley plantings have fallen 5% to 243Kha, similar to levels in 2010. This could be due to a slowdown in malting barley demand (read more in Defra’s May supply and demand estimates) with anecdotally fewer malting barley contracts available and therefore some growers reportedly switching some areas to oats.

GB winter barley plantings have fallen 2% to 426Kha. Declines were seen in both England and Scotland, with the English area at 371Kha (-1%) and Scottish area at 47kha (-9%).

Overall, malting barley varieties on the Institute of Brewing and Distilling approved list for harvest 2016 account for 47% of the total GB barley area. Following improvements to the methodology, this figure is not directly comparable to 2015’s results. If we apply our current methodology to last year’s values, malting barley varieties in 2015 accounted for 52% of GB, five percentage points higher than 2016.

GB oat area up 4%, to 135Kha


While up overall, the oat area shows some regional variation. The most noticeable growth was seen in Scotland, where a 12% increase was estimated. At 29Kha, this is the second highest Scottish area since 1990, behind 2013.
When considered against the results of winter planting surveys, it suggests that the total oat area has benefited from the general upward trend for spring crops. However, as the oat area is relatively small in comparison to those for other crops, estimations should be treated with additional caution.

English and Scottish OSR area down by 9%, to 591Kha

The English OSR area has dropped by 8% to the lowest level since 2009. This decrease is likely due to the prospects of low market returns at planting and increased risks associated with growing OSR, including from cabbage stem flea beetle. The largest declines were seen in Eastern England (-10%) and East Midlands (-11%). The Scottish area is also sharply lower, down 13%. However, the lack of an alternative break crop of scale may have limited declines in some regions.

Charger is the top grown variety, accounting for an estimated 8% of the GB area according to the survey.

Source: AHDB

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