18 September 1998

Swing to breaks as growers ready for Agenda 2000

Dramatic changes in

rotations and variety choice

are underway this autumn.

Charles Abel reports the

swings forecast by

merchanting firm Dalgety

ROTATIONS are in turmoil this autumn as growers prepare for a possible 20% leap in wheat sowings next autumn to meet the demands of Agenda 2000 CAP reforms.

Most of the cereal downturn will stem from a 30% slump in winter barley sowings, Dalgety forecasts. Winter wheat will dip just 1-2%. Main beneficiary will be winter rape, set to rise 10%, plus set-aside, with peas, beans and linseed all holding steady.

"The industry is getting itself into a very good state of readiness to grow a lot more first wheat, if that is what Agenda 2000 demands," says David Neale, national cereal seeds manager at Dalgety.

"There are other options if the rules change, but growers are giving themselves the flexibility to grow a lot more wheat. Planning seed production against that background will not be easy."

Barleys big downturn is blamed on a mix of disappointing harvest results and miserable price prospects. "The dramatic reaction of farmers is showing itself in reduced seed sales throughout the industry, by up to 50% in some areas. Final reductions of 25-30% cannot be ruled out."

By contrast winter rape sowings could rise 10%, says oilseed and pulse seed manager, Julie Goult. "Even with the background of this years lower rape yields and the threat of substantial cuts in area aid, rape looks to have been a popular choice." Together with a doubling of industrial rape on set-aside the crop could top 500,000ha (1.2m acres).

Linseed sowings will remain static, at almost 100,000ha (240,000 acres), but will be mostly spring sown, after a second year of poor winter crop results, she adds. A similar trend for peas will see a comparable total area, but with even less winter sown crop. After a small rise in 1998 beans could hold steady at about 100,000ha, but with spring varieties dropping back.

Spring barley sowings could also rise. "The crop had a much better year than winter barley, has lower growing costs, spreads work load and is preferred by end markets," says Mr Neale. A 2-5% upswing is forecast, with a very limited seed supply expected.

Oats are a potentially attractive, low cost white-strawed break. But margin prospects are not good, resulting in a 15% downturn.

1998 Results

Crop Ave yield Total

(t/ha) (t)

W wheat 7.8 15.95m

W barley 6.15 4.66m

S barley 5.11 2.57m

Oats 6.17 0.6m

Rape 3.05 1.51m

W linseed 1.2

S linseed 1.7

Peas 3.49 352,000

Beans 3.72 405,000