The annual AHDB pre-harvest Planting and Variety survey  – issued as combines have started bringing in oilseed rape and winter barleys around a fortnight early in this exceptionally hot, dry year – points to a significant increase in the spring barley area.

The Planting survey estimates a 3% year-on-year fall in the Great Britain winter wheat area to 1.76 million ha; a 1% drop in GB winter barley plantings to 428,000ha and a 4% fall in the area planted with winter oilseed rape in England and Scotland to 553,000ha. The oat crop area in England and Scotland is put at 151,000ha, 14% up on 2016, while the GB spring barley area is up 9% to 725,000ha.

“Spring barley continues to benefit from a surge in interest in spring cropping, as part of efforts to tackle agronomic challenges, including the control of black-grass, plus as a replacement for previously lost oilseed rape crops,” points out senior AHDB analyst Helen Plant. “In addition to the agronomic challenges, the profitability of many winter crops was also poor when planting decisions were being made. Much of the rise in grain and oilseed prices seen last autumn occurred after planting was underway, giving less opportunity for growers to respond.”

The Variety survey reveals that nabim Group 1 and 2 wheat varieties account for 40% of the GB wheat area for harvest 2017, up from 31% last year, and the highest since the 43% share in the first AHDB/HGCA survey in 2006.  Group 4 varieties (both hard and soft) drop to a 48% share, the lowest since 2009, prompting the AHDB to warn of potentially tight supplies in the 2017/18 marketing year. Group 3 types take up the remaining 5% “despite the recent introduction of higher-yielding Group 3 varieties”.

Malting barley varieties with full approval from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling account for 50%of the GB barley area, up from 47% in 2016.  Elgar and DK Extrovert each has an 11% share of the oilseed area, with Campus at 8%

The full survey report and regional breakdown is available at https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/press/2017/july/14/spring-barley-popularity-continues-to-grow-in-gb.aspx