The AHDB/HGCAWinter Planting Survey shows a greater reliance on spring cropping by thearable sector for harvest 2015 in England and Wales.
By 1 December2014 the area planted to wheat, winter barley, oats and oilseed rape totalled2.776M ha, 5% less than the total area of these crops harvested in 2014.
As plantingconditions were relatively favourable last autumn, this change is likely drivenby economic and agronomic factors. This is in contrast to plantings for harvest2013, where poor autumn conditions led to more spring cropping.
Helen Plant,AHDB/HGCA Senior Analyst said: Potential factors include increased interest incultural controls for weeds and diseases, particularly black-grass, as well aschanges to the economics for the whole rotation. The higher yields of wintercrops are worth comparatively less at lower prices increasing the incentiveto plant spring crops.
The introductionof the three-crop rule as part of the latest changes to the Common AgriculturalPolicy may also have had an impact.
Wheat was planted onan estimated 1.69M ha as at 1 December in England and Wales. This represents adrop of 7% compared with the area of wheat harvested in 2014, but does not takeinto account any late winter or spring wheat plantings.
Late winter andspring plantings are gaining attention due to their potential contribution toblack-grass control and so are likely to become more important to the totalwheat area. The largest declines are seen in the East, South East and EastMidlands, which perhaps reflect the strength of the challenges posed byblack-grass in these regions.
Winter barley plantingsremain high in England and Wales. An estimated 0.371M ha was planted by 1December, broadly in line with the area harvested in 2014 and the largest since2003. The total UK barley area will depend on plantings this spring.
Ms Plant added:The winter barley area remains historically strong in England and Wales, withplantings again seeming to benefit from the availability of newer high-yieldingvarieties. We may also be seeing a high winter barley area due to farmerslooking to extend their rotations, widen their harvest window and spread workloads.Again, many growers this year may be using winter barley to support theestablishment of following oilseed rape crops.
The oilseed rape area is estimated at0.633M ha as at 1 December. This represents a small (1%) drop from the totalarea of oilseed rape (both winter and spring varieties) harvested in 2014.
While overallthe oilseed rape area remains relatively strong and is only slightly loweryear-on-year, there seems to be a regional spilt. Declines to the oilseed rapearea in the south and east of England, are offset by increases in the north ofEngland. This is perhaps linked to the large winter barley areas planted in thenorth of England for harvest 2014, an ideal preceding crop for oilseed rape.
The oat area as at 1 December shows a 23%decline from the total oat area harvested in 2014. With the English and Welshoat area estimated at 85K ha by 1 December, this places higher emphasis onspring oat plantings this year.
The fall in thearea planted to oats was widely anticipated following large crops in both 2013and 2014, with a subsequent decline in prices for crops not grown on contract.Nonetheless, it should be remembered that spring oat plantings, especially inthe north of England and Scotland are important to the national total.
The winter plantingsurvey results are available in an interactive format through the HGCA Market Data Centre.
This survey,which measures autumn crop planting up to 1 December 2014, is based on 2,152responses from a representative sample of farm businesses. The areas reportedby these businesses equates to 9% of the estimated area of wheat, winterbarley, oat and oilseed rape planted in England and Wales as at 1December.
Results forsmaller crop areas such as oats should be treated with additional caution asthey are subject to a higher level of uncertainty.
Full analysis ofthe England and Wales planting results, plus data from the Scottish Government,will be published in a Prospects article on hgca.com/markets on 31 March 2015.
AHDB/HGCA willcarry out a full planting and variety survey this spring on total areas forharvest 2015, with results released in the summer.