Drilling spring cereals© Tim Scrivener

The Scottish winter cropping area has plunged compared with the previous year after wet weather at drilling time stifled the efforts of growers to get crops planted.

Figures from the Scottish government’s 2017 December Agricultural Survey show the winter wheat area was down by 11%, at the lowest level since the 1970s.

Winter barley plantings also saw a sharp drop, with a 20% reduction in crops drilled compared with 2016. There were also falls in the oilseed rape and oat areas.  

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The combined effect of this is that an estimated 22,500 fewer hectares were planted across the country than in 2016.

The reduced plantings are likely to be linked to the weather in September, with frequent showers and higher-than-average rainfall in some areas hampering efforts to get seed in the ground.

The study, which is based on a smaller sample of farms than the more comprehensive June census, also found there had been declines in livestock numbers.

While breeding sheep numbers remained similar to previous years, there was a 14% decline in the number of lambs on the year, with a total of 3.4 million lambs born in 2017.