Autumn plantings disrupted by harvesting delays and wet soils have created early demand for spring seed, with merchants reporting strong forward order books and some crop shortages.

Land clearance difficulties have reduced the winter oilseed rape area by between 15-20%, leaving some 90-100,000ha needing an alternative crop, says Jeremy Taylor of Senova.

“Growers who have only just finished clearing wheat fields are struggling to know what to do,” he says. “Some have changed their minds twice already.”

A 15-20% reduction in the winter oilseed rape area could have the knock-on effect of doubling the spring rape area, he adds. “If you’re planning to replace oilseeds with oilseeds, then the choice is between spring rape or spring linseed.”

Both crops have the advantage of lower growing costs and minimal disruption to established rotations, notes Mr Taylor.

He predicts that supplies of spring rape seed will be tight, especially with the most popular, early maturing varieties such as SW Oban, Palladium and Ritz.

“Maturity dates are important, especially where growers are anxious to get back to first wheats next autumn.”

Overall, there were less spring seed contracts planted last year, so supplies will be tighter for all crops, warns Mr Taylor.

David Waite of Frontier points out that a huge amount of wheat could be sown in the next four weeks. “We’re still selling autumn seed. Only if it rains for another month will demand for spring cereal seed go through the roof.”

However, growers on heavy land who know that they will not get drilled up have already committed to spring seed, he reports. “The demand for beans is higher than usual and winter bean seed stocks are getting very low.”

Peter Smith of Wherry’s agrees that winter bean seed supply is fairly tight. “We had a good early sell and always get a fire-brigade spot trade in mid October. We haven’t run out, but that will be different in a week’s time.”

He adds that there has been enough seed for a 50% increase in the winter bean area. “And it will be at least that. The area is expected to rise from 68,000ha to 100,000ha.”

Spring linseed seed supplies can’t be predicted yet, but are unlikely to run short, agree trade sources.

With spring cereals, growers are being advised to order specific varieties now. “If you know you want a particular spring barley or oat variety, speak to your seed retailer and declare your requirements,” says Mr Taylor.

Spring barley demand will be determined by the eventual size of the wheat crop, says Barry Barker of Masstock. “There’s no doubt we’ll see some varietal shortages. But growers can keep drilling Xi19 for now.”

Spring wheat seed will be difficult to come by. “There will be between 6,000-7,000t of seed and it will become a limiting factor if demand is higher than usual,” notes Mr Waite.

Peas are another crop which have been hit by the rainy harvest, says Mr Taylor. “There have been problems with seed crops, so there’s good reason to secure supplies of pulses too.”

Mr Smith agrees. “Peas are going to be very tight. The demand is earlier than normal.”