Despite some growers in the South East dropping oilseed rape (OSR) from their rotations, an AHDB survey reveals that the total amount of OSR to harvest in 2017 is likely to be similar to last season.
The English OSR area, as at December 1 2016, is estimated at 538,000ha – only 1 per cent lower than the total amount of winter and spring OSR harvested in 2016.
Unless there is an increase in spring sowing, or a rise in abandonment levels, the OSR area is likely to be similar to last harvest, according to AHDB.
Compared with the 2015 December survey findings, there is a more pronounced regional split in OSR plantings across the country. Large reductions were estimated in the East and North East, whereas other areas have increased plantings.
AHDB market analyst, Isobel Robinson said: “This shift away from oilseed rape in the East is likely due to production pressures, including the potential risk from cabbage stem flea beetle damage.”
In other regions, OSR remains the break crop of choice, with higher prices at the time of planting perhaps giving a boost to areas, say AHDB.
AHDB’s Winter Planting Survey estimates the area of wheat and winter barley plus oilseed rape and oats in England at 2.59M ha as at December 1 2016, of which:
The area of these four crops is estimated to be broadly unchanged from the 2016 harvested area.
Miss Robinson adds: “In recent years we have seen increased interest in cultural controls for weeds and disease, particularly black-grass, which has contributed to a rise in spring cropping. In addition, market conditions continue to challenge the economics of the whole rotation.”
At 1.61M ha, the wheat area in England and Wales is 5 per cent lower than the total wheat area harvested in 2016.
Wheat remains the main crop for the majority of rotations across the country. However, anecdotal comments have suggested growers are starting to consider longer rotations for cultural control of weeds and disease. This could mean other crops such as spring wheat are included in rotations.
At 377,000 ha, the English and Welsh winter barley area is an estimated 2 per cent smaller than the 384,000ha harvested in 2016. This reflects the greater trend towards spring cropping, as the drop in the winter barley area could increase the land available for spring crops. Furthermore, economic factors could also have contributed as feed barley prices have been struggling this season relative to feed wheat.
The oat area in England is estimated at 95,000ha as at December 1 2016, down 8 per cent from the total English 2016 harvested area, which includes both spring and winter oats. However, compared to December 1 2015, the area as at December 1 2016 is quite considerably larger at 19,000ha.
An oat area of 95,000ha, even before spring plantings, is quite high although not unprecedented, says AHDB. In 2013/14, the total oat area in England reached 138,000ha. Whether the area for the 2017/18 season reaches these levels is likely to be determined by the area of spring oats planted and will be influenced by the Scottish oat area. The results from the Scottish government on winter plantings are due to be released on March 16.