Farmer-controlled United Oilseeds is forecasting a 7% increase in the UK winter oilseed rape crop, the first increase for five years.

Based on its seed sales and a survey of its farmer members, the co-operative estimates that 602,783 hectares have been planted for harvest 2018, which is 7.07% up on Defra’s figure of 563,000ha harvested in 2017.

This would be the first area increase since 2012 when the crop peaked at 758,000ha – it has steadily declined over subsequent years. As well as the national increase, it is encouraging to see increases in the Eastern and South Eastern regions that have suffered the most from increased insect pest problems at establishment, exacerbated by the loss of crop protection actives, says UO managing director Chris Baldwin.

The business estimates the average 2017 OSR yield at 3.87 tonnes/ha, the highest since the 3.99t/ha achieved in 2011, which equates to a total UK 2017 crop output of 2.18 million tonnes. Applying a five-year mean yield of 3.5t/ha to the 2018 planting figure points to a 2.11m tonnes crop, Mr Baldwin notes.

Certified seed sales are up by 8.89% to 471,000ha in autumn 2017, comprising 175,500ha of conventional varieties (+10.9%) and 295,800ha of hybrids (+7.7%). Farm Saved Seed accounts for the remaining 130,000ha, or a 21% market share.

 This points to a 40% area share for hybrids, 37.23% for conventionals and 5.57% for HOLL and 5.12% for HEAR types. But the biggest growth – 97% – is in the Clearfield system varieties that now account for 12.13% of the UK area.