Continued wet weather prolonging this autumn’s drilling season means UK growers intend to plant 1.65 million hectares to wheat, compared to 1.82m ha last year.
AHDB’s Early Bird Survey ahdb.org.uk/cereals-oilseeds/early-bird-survey, released on November 25, provides a snapshot of farmers’ intentions for winter and spring crops as of mid-November.
But the unpredictable impacts of the weather over the coming weeks means AHDB will rerun the survey in the new year to ensure it reflects the latest intentions of growers as the winter progresses and weather conditions change.
According to the survey, the winter barley area may also drop to 398,000ha, 12 per cent lower than the 452,000ha planted for harvesting in 2019.
The annual survey, which is carried out for AHDB by the Andersons Centre, Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) and other agronomists, is the first assessment of national cropping for the harvest year. It includes crops in the ground, winter crops still to be sown through December and January and intentions for spring plantings.
This year’s survey shows a swing towards spring cropping, with growers intending to plant 28 per cent more spring barley at 915,000ha, the highest area since 1988.
The oat area is expected to increase again for 2020 harvest to a total of 200,000ha of winter and spring oats, a 10 per cent increase on last year.
But farmers took to Twitter to dispute the figures. Brett Askew, NFU North East Crops Board chairman estimates only 50 per cent of winter cereals planted across the country and nearer 40 per cent wheat. "There is a big difference between intentions and actual plantings. Farmer meetings have shown that less than 50 per cent of winter cereal crops have been planted of which much is in poor condition. Many farmers have planted little to no wheat at all."
There is further decline in the oilseed rape area, down 23 per cent year on year to 406,000ha, as growers in the UK continue to cut back acreage in response to the damage and yield risk caused by cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB).
AHDB analyst Alice Bailey said: “The unprecedented weather over the last two months has led to a winter planting season unlike any before. There are significant swings in crop areas after this autumn’s deluge, as growers switch to spring crops in an attempt to sow in better conditions.
“If there is further damage to crops over the coming weeks due to bad weather or pests such as CSFB in oilseed rape, we may see further changes to these areas as we head through the winter.”