Cereals and rape areas up but winter barley drops

Wheat and oilseed rape areas are up by 1% and 9% respectively, according to HGCA’s planting survey but the winter barley area has dropped by 9%.

The wheat area for harvest 2011 stands at 1.941m ha (4.796m acres) in Great Britain and barley at 915,000ha (2.261m acres). While the overall barley area is up 2%, this masks the lowest planted area of winter barley since 1994, when separate recording of winter and spring statistics began.

The figures are close to what the market was expecting. Trade was very thin on Monday because the Chicago market was closed for a holiday and European growers were not interested in selling, said David Doyle of Openfield. Prices on the London feed wheat futures market firmed by £2.75/t for November over the day, closing at £163.25/t. This put harvest feed wheat at around £150/t ex-farm and barley around £143/t ex-farm.

Increases in the cereal and oilseed rape areas were largely in the north and west of Great Britain, with growers either looking to capitalise on strong prices, or simply protect themselves from higher input costs by growing more home-grown feed, said AHDB’s cereals and oilseeds senior analyst Jack Watts.

“The overall increase in total barley area has come as a result of strong malting premiums for spring barley in the run-up to last year’s harvest, and the difficult sowing conditions for root crops this autumn may also have contributed,” he said.

“Following last year’s increase of 14% in the oilseed rape area, we have seen another 9% increase in the plantings for harvest 2011 indicating the strong profitability for the crop at the time of planting.”

Mr Watts reminded growers that with oilseed rape increasing in frequency within rotations, growers should be aware of the potential agronomic implications, including disease build-up.

“The competitiveness of oilseed rape this harvest will be maintained by relatively strong prices, but growers should be aware of the risks for next season,” he said.

Scotland has seen a 3% rise in the total cereals area with wheat up by 4% on 2010 and the second highest wheat area in Scotland since 1992.

Market prices are also affecting variety choice, with the share taken by nabim Group 4 varieties rising from 51% in 2010 to 54% of all wheat grown in GB, according to the HGCA variety survey.

“The greatest increases to the Group 4 area have been seen in the north-east, particularly Yorkshire, where Group 4 varieties now account for 69% of the wheat area grown. This change may have resulted from recent difficult harvests producing disappointing results from the higher quality wheats,” said Mr Watts.

That growers were seeking greater flexibility in their marketing was reflected in the increase in Group 3 plantings, with their total share rising to 15%.

“In the south-east, almost 90% of the wheat area is occupied by varieties meeting the ukp and uks specifications for export, and the Group 3 share has increased from 16% to 25%,” said HGCA exports manager Sarah Mann.