Farm survey predicts wheat and winter barley acreages will rise for harvest 2019

Oilseed rape being harvested in South Raynham. Picture: Patrick Joice

Oilseed rape being harvested in South Raynham. Picture: Patrick Joice - Credit: Patrick Joice

The acreages of staple East Anglian arable crops including wheat and winter barley are set to rise for harvest 2019 while oilseed rape areas fall, according to a survey of farmers' planting intentions.

Good drilling conditions and comparatively high prices have encouraged growers to plant more winter varieties this autumn, bucking the trend of recent years, according to the annual Early Bird Survey carried out by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

AHDB analyst Daniel Rooney said: 'Under these favourable conditions, we have seen more autumn cropping, going against the trend towards greater spring cropping in recent years.'

Britain's total wheat area, including spring wheat, is forecast to rise by 4pc to 1.86Mha for harvest 2019. This would be the highest wheat area since 2014.

The area sown to winter barley is expected to rise by 13pc to 444,000ha, while the area of spring barley is anticipated to fall 3pc to 735,000ha – the first decline since 2014.

Having risen substantially in 2018, the area of oats is again projected to rise by nine per cent – an increase of nearly 50pc in the total oats area since 2015.

Meanwhile, the survey shows a likely decline of 3pc in another staple East Anglian crop, with the oilseed rape area predicted to be down to 582,000ha for harvest 2019.

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Mr Rooney said: 'Seed sales figures and anecdotal evidence suggest that the total planted area for oilseed rape was similar to or even possibly higher than last year but dry conditions and cabbage stem flea beetle caused more crop losses than previous years, leading to an overall decline.

He added: 'The Early Bird Survey carries a track record of very accurate figures. Nonetheless, the survey only represents a snapshot at a given point in time and therefore should be interpreted carefully.'

The AHDB said figures for winter crops which have already been planted will carry a greater degree of certainty over spring crops yet to be drilled. Final results and regional data will be available following the release of final Defra data, scheduled for late December.