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New survey shows massive drop in cereals

HGCA's (Home Grown Cereals Authority) Early Bird Survey of cropping intentions suggests a significant decline in cereals and oilseeds plantings this autumn.

The annual survey aims to provide a brief, early snapshot of national cropping decisions to set the scene for harvest 2013.

The findings are based on anecdotal evidence from agronomists responsible for nearly 240,000 hectares (ha) of arable land across England and Scotland about crops already in the ground – regardless of establishment conditions – coupled with planting intentions, should weather permit.

They show planting areas are down an anticipated 12% for winter wheat (to 1.76m ha), 9% for winter barley (to 385,000 ha) and 3% for oilseed rape (to 732,000 ha).

Not surprisingly, the late harvest combined with difficulties drilling due to heavy rain and poor soil conditions have been cited as the main causes of the drop in plantings. As a result, the national spring barley crop area is projected to rise by 40% to 865,000ha.

Jack Watts, AHDB/HGCA senior analyst, stressed the findings needed to be put in context.

He said: "These figures need to be treated as a very early snapshot for the 2013 harvest.

"There are a number of critical factors yet to determine final harvest areas, including seed availability for spring crops, pest damage, water logging, non-germination or emergence issues and weather conditions over the winter.

"As these play out over the coming months, the area harvested in 2013 may well differ from these initial estimates."

Farmland has continued to rise in value this year, with Scotland outperforming the rest of Great Britain, latest figures from land agent Savills show.

The number of acres of farmland marketed in Scotland increased this year by 22%, compared to the first three quarters of 2011 with 36,000 acres advertised publicly. This is the largest supply of farmland during the first nine months of the year since 2006.

Savills' latest farmland analysis reveals 54% of the farms marketed this year have either sold or are currently under offer.

This leaves around 62 farms unsold, almost half of which are located in south-west Scotland and are typically between 100 and 300 acres.

Luke French of Savills said: "While we have seen a notable increase in supply this year, larger commercially viable farms have been scarce.

"In fact, of the 134 farms available this year, only 23 had more than 400 acres.

"While east coast arable land will continue to find buyers comparatively easily, farms on the west will need to be of sufficient scale and well equipped if they are to attract similar levels of interest."

Values in Scotland performed most strongly compared to the rest of GB during the last quarter, increasing by 7.3% to £6450 per acre for prime arable land. However, prices in excess of £8000 per acre have been achieved in competitive situations.

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