Smallest oilseed rape area in England since 2009

The winter cropping area for England and Wales has fallen for the second year running, with oilseed rape alone down by 10%, according to a new survey.

AHDB’s Winter Planting Survey estimates that the area of wheat and winter barley in England and Wales, plus oilseed rape and oats in England adds up to 2.66m hectares. This is 5% down on the area harvested last summer.

However, the fall in oilseed rape area is less than predicted in the early bird survey published last November, which predicted a 14% fall.

See also: Oilseed rape area falls with spring crops to take up the slack

The 2.66m hectares of winter cropping drilled up to 1 December 2015 for harvest this summer comprises:

  • 1.66m hectares of wheat
  • 548,000ha oilseed rape (England only)
  • 376,000ha of winter barley
  • 79,000ha oats (England only)

Helen Plant, AHDB senior analyst, said: “Market conditions continue to challenge the economics of the whole rotation, but especially oilseed rape, which shows the largest decline year on year.

“While still an important break crop, the fall in area shows the increasing risks of growing oilseed rape are outweighing the potential rewards on offer from current forward prices.”

Increased interest in cultural controls for weeds and diseases, particularly blackgrass, is also potentially a factor, along with continuing impacts of the three-crop rule – acting as an incentive to hold land back for spring cropping or indeed fallow.

The higher yields of winter crops are also worth comparatively less at lower prices – increasing the incentive to plant spring crops, she says.

Other survey conclusions include:

  • Wheat: The wheat area in England and Wales is 3% lower than the total wheat area harvested in 2015, but similar to last year’s survey. Without higher levels of late winter and spring plantings year on year, the 2016 England and Wales total wheat area is likely to be similar to that harvested in 2015.
  • Oilseed rape: The English area is 10% lower than the 611,000ha harvested in 2015, of which 99% was winter sown. Unless spring plantings are substantially higher than in the last two years, this sets England up for the lowest oilseed rape area since 2009.
  • Winter barley: The English and Welsh winter barley area is 2% smaller than the 383,000ha harvested in 2015. Nonetheless, it remains above that harvested in 2014 and at a historically high level. Dependent on the level of spring barley plantings, especially in Scotland, the UK could be looking at a fourth consecutive large barley area.
  • Oats: The estimate is about 5,000ha lower than the area reported in last year’s winter planting survey, suggesting a fall in winter oat plantings for harvest 2016.

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