Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring barley resurgence as ‘love affair’ continues

December 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

Spring barley is forecast to increase in popularity again this year, with the 2018 drilled area expected to be up by 3% at 773,000ha – the fourth consecutive annual increase.

This would be the highest area of spring barley since 1989 – other than during the extreme years of 2001, 2009 and 2013, when increases in the crop were caused largely by weather events. But it is still much lower than the high of around 2.0Mha recorded in the 1970s.

Analysts say this latest resurgence is not all driven by weed control benefits, as it has been in recent years. Spring barley can give similar yields to winter barley but with lower production costs, so the margins of both crops can be similar.

At the same time, some growers have struggled with bushel weights on winter crops in recent years. With more farmers preferring to wait until spring before drilling, the winter barley area is expected to fall by 9% this season.

Provisional figures

The provisional figures are from the AHDB’s Early Bird Survey. This season’s survey covers an area 79% greater than previous years. A regional breakdown and final figures of planting intentions was due to be published as Anglia Farmer went to press in December.

The survey suggests the area of oilseed rape for harvest 2018 is up 9% compared to last year, but autumn drilling conditions for other crops were difficult in many regions following a long and late harvest – slowing winter plantings and meaning later winter drilling than usual.

Typically, under these conditions, the UK tends to see slightly less autumn cropping. Coupled with agronomic incentives for more spring cropping and lower costs of production for some crops, this trend appears to be continuing.

AHDB analyst Daniel Rooney said: “This means that we are seeing a continued squeeze on the wheat area as well as our ongoing love-affair with spring barley.”

The wheat area is forecast to fall by 2% which, if correct, would result in 1.752Mha for harvest 2018 – the fourth consecutive decline in area. This includes spring wheat, which anecdotally has shown evidence of another potential increase in area in 2018.

The area of oats in recent harvests has been above historical averages with a rising trend. But the area for 2018 is projected to fall, albeit only slightly, by less than 1% to 160,000ha.

Pulses are expected to reduce in area by 6% – wiping out gains made in the last two years. This decline in the area of peas and beans is unsurprising given the change in greening rules – specifically the ban on pesticide usage in pulses used for Ecological Focus Areas.

Market prospects for beans, even with good human consumption samples, are relatively poor at present, significantly affecting the margin compared to oilseed rape, says the AHDB. But growers with quality crops will still make a better return than those with an average harvest.

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