Drilling oilseed rape © Tim Scrivener

Oilseed rape drilling fell by 14% this autumn, with unplanted land likely to be taken up by spring barley and pulses, according to the AHDB’s Early Bird Survey.

The winter wheat area is expected to be largely flat, with winter barley down slightly. The biggest gainers will be spring crops in this AHDB estimate of planting intentions for harvest 2016 in Great Britain.

Overall, the British area of arable crops covering everything from cereals to sugar beet is up slightly at 4.53m hectares due largely to higher spring barley, pulses and oat planting plans.

The oilseed rape area is down for the fourth season in a row to 565,000ha, the lowest since harvest 2009, due to low rapeseed prices and restriction on seed dressing, says Brenda Mullan, AHDB market intelligence acting senior analyst.

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

On the flip side, growers have turned to peas and beans as a break crop, with the pulse area expected to rise by 15% to 242,000ha.

Early Bird Survey (EBS) estimates of UK crop areas for harvest 2016

(1,000ha) Defra June survey 2015 EBS forecast harvest 2016 Change
All wheat 1,833 1,825 0%
Winter barley 442 424 -4%
Spring barley 658 727 10%
Oats 131 148 13%
Other cereals 36 63 75%
OSR 654 565 -14%
Other oilseed 18 21 16%
Pulses 211 242 15%
Arable fallow 193 197 2%
Other crops on arable land* 344 364 6%
Toral 4,520 4,532  

*Sugar beet, potatoes, maize, vegetables, roots, other stock feed.
Source: Degra/The Andersons Centre

Estimated crop areas for harvest 2016

  • Winter wheat – similar to last season at 1.8m hectares
  • Winter barley – down 4% to 424,000ha
  • Spring barley – up 10% to 727,000ha
  • Oats – up 13% at 148,000ha
  • Oilseed rape – down 14% to 565,000ha
  • Pulses – up 15% to 242,000ha

Within the forecast of winter wheat area being largely flat at 1.83m ha, there is suggestion that the area of spring wheat is rising within the total wheat crop.

The winter barley area is forecast to have fallen 4% to 424,000ha, but if spring barley shows its anticipated 10% rise, the total barley area could be up 5% at 1.2m ha.

The spring barley area could be the highest since 2009 – aside for 2013, which was driven up by poor weather in autumn 2012. This increase is likely to be due to a move towards spring cropping to manage blackgrass.

The area to oats rose 13% to 148,000ha, largely reversing the fall of last season, and would be 9% higher than the previous five-year average.

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