Harvesting oilseed rape © Tim Scrivener

Oilseed rape plantings in Britain are up 9% this autumn with the crop area above 600,000ha driven by higher rapeseed prices and the lack of alternative break crops.

After five years of decline, the area is forecast at 616,000ha for harvest 2018 including any crop losses to date. This is still 19% below the record area of oilseed rape – 756,000ha for harvest 2012.

The forecast comes from the Early-Bird Survey undertaken by consultants at the Andersons Centre with the help of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and other agronomists for the AHDB.

Daniel Rooney, AHDB analyst, said for some farms, oilseed rape will have been the most profitable crop for 2017, therefore influencing the area for harvest 2018.

“Planting decisions will have also been driven by improved gross margins or higher prices, together with poor alternative options for break crops,” he added.

Other results from the survey include:

  • Winter wheat – the area is forecast to fall by 2% to 1.752m hectares for harvest 2018 (the fourth consecutive area decline). The forecast 2018 harvest equates to an area 3% below the last five-year average.
  • Winter barley – the area is expected to fall by 9% to 388,000ha, while the area of spring barley is set to continue to rise with the 2018 area forecast to be up 3% at 773,000ha.
  • Oats – the area is projected to fall, albeit only slightly, by less than 1% to 160,000ha
  • Pulses – the area is set to reduce by 6% to 219,000ha, wiping out the gains the crop group made in the past two years. This follows changes to greening rules, specifically the ban on pesticide use in pulses used for ecological focus areas.