Scotland’s cereal area fell to a 30-year low this harvest, according to latest official figures.

NFUS combinable crops chairman David Houghton said CAP reform had been the main driver behind the change, as figures from the Scottish Executive’s June agricultural census showed plantings dropped 6% to just over 457,000ha (1,129,000 acres).

Wheat was down 5.5%, winter barley down 8% and spring barley 5.4%.

 “Farmers in Scotland had a better idea (than those in England) of how the SFP would look, and knew they would be fully decoupled.

“They reassessed the potential of land and stopped cropping less productive areas like field corners.

“This could well be a trend that gathers pace. I expect to see the main effects to the cropped area next spring – we could see spring barley plantings down considerably.”

Gordon Stewart, Grainfarmers’ Scottish seed manager, agreed CAP reform was behind the smaller area, but added rising production costs had also forced farmers to rethink.

“There is a lot more home-saved seed in the ground this season.”

Good weather this autumn meant farmers would have taken the opportunity to increase winter plantings, he added.

“Spring barley will suffer. There’s 5-10% more winter seed in the ground.”

The Scottish Executive’s next survey could well find cereals plantings had dropped further.

“Around Fife and Perth, there’s 100-120,000t of spring barley with no real market to go to.”

Recent closures of maltings at Carnoustie and Kirkcaldy had also led farmers to consider growing feed grains over malting barley, Mr Stewart added.