Ploughing fallow land© Tim Scrivener

The UK’s area of uncropped arable land rose by more than 20% this year to 193,000ha, according to Defra’s June 2015 census figures released on Friday (16 October).

Greening is thought to account for most of the increase, with some of the uncropped area in fallow, said head of business research Richard King of farm business consultants Andersons.

However he questioned whether the rise was a straight increase compared with last year.

“It could be that because of greening requirements, margins and poor corners traditionally left uncropped are being recorded more accurately because of greening,” he said.

“I would be surprised if it was all additional land coming out of production and I think we could see the uncropped area drop back again next year, as people learn how to cope with ecological focus areas.”

See also: BPS greening rules key to drilling decisions

There was little change in the total area cropped, down 0.5% to 4.696m ha (see table below).

“I would be surprised if it was all additional land coming out of production and I think we could see the uncropped area drop back again next year, as people learn how to cope with ecological focus areas”
Richard King, Andersons

Total cattle numbers were similarly stable, up 0.5%.

Within this the dairy herd saw a 2% increase in the number of animals aged two years or older to 1.877 million head.

However the number of dairy animals aged one year or older rose by 3.3% to 1.559 million head.

While there might be some surprise at this level of increase in the number of dairy animals, it were probably mainly the result of investment in expansion that had been put in place well before the downturn in milk prices, said Mr King.

“It’s perhaps a surprise to see sheep numbers not go up and conversely to see a rise in beef animal numbers,” said Mr King.

Top line results: June 2015 UK agricultural census

Total crops (000ha)

4,722

4,696

-0.5%

Arable crops

4,559

4,522

-0.8%

 Cereals

3 ,179

3,119

-1.9%

Oilseeds (includes linseed)

691

672

-2.8%

Potatoes

141

131

-6.4%

Other crops

548

600

9.5%

Horticultural crops

 164

174

6.4%

Livestock (thousand head)

Total cattle and calves

9,837

9,890

+0.5%

Total sheep

33,743

33,555

-0.6%

Total pigs

4,815

4,725

-1.9%