The area of potatoes grown in Scotland fell by 10% to 26,000ha in 2015, according to the results of the Scottish government’s June agriculture census.
The results show the potato area fell by 2,700ha between 2014 and 2015, the sixth successive year plantings have dropped. The area is now the smallest on record.
“The decrease in potato area was seen across both ware and seed potatoes, dropping by 10% and 9% respectively,” said a report by the government.
See also: Scottish poultry at an all-time low
“This may have been influenced by high yields in 2014, coupled with falling demand, which resulted in downward pressure on prices.”
The area of cereals decreased by 4% from 462,000ha to 444,000ha, with a reduction in the area of barley, down by 19,000ha to 308,000ha, and only very small increases in the wheat and oat areas.
The area of oilseed rape decreased by 4% to 36,000ha. The area of fallow land almost trebled to 33,000ha.
NFU Scotland policy manager Peter Loggie said the drop in ware potato production was significant and the smallest planted area for two decades clearly reflected the poor returns from growing potatoes in recent years.
“On the up side, we are seeing a continuing increase in land being used for vegetable production, including vining peas and beans – the pea area being the largest for more than a decade.
“The huge increase in peas for combining (138.6% up) and beans for combining (up 46.3%) shows how Scottish growers have reacted positively to the EU measure allowing protein crops to be planted as a greening option,” he added.
“This is good in terms of producing more home-grown proteins and also good news for pollinators.
“There is a real risk, however, that this progress will be put into reverse by the Scottish government’s further gold-plating of the management rules for nitrogen-fixing crops grown on ecological focus areas.
“In the fruit sector, there is further good news with a big increase in the area of blueberries and orchard fruit, both up-and-coming crops for Scotland, highlighting the innovation that continues to be shown by our growers.”
On the livestock side, the census showed small increases in the number of cattle, sheep and pigs, though there was a sharp decrease in the number of poultry.
The increase in cattle numbers was less than 1%, but represented the first increase since 2010.
Dairy cattle numbers continued to show growth, up 1.4% to 278,000, though the number of beef cattle also fell by 0.5% to 710,000.
There was however a 3% increase in calf numbers to 544,000 which boosted the total.
Sheep numbers increased for the second consecutive year, the first time that has happened since the 1990s, though the increase this year was only 0.1 per cent, to 6.70 million head.