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Copes Weekly Wisdom – Wednesday 9 November 2016

Harvest might feel like it’s only just over and are still only at the starting blocks of the 2016/17 season. However, for many, attention is already focusing on the 2017 crop.

Growers will already have made their decisions on planting for next years’ crop and have been busy with winter drilling over the past few weeks. Official data suggests that we’re still months away from confirming the total cereal and oilseed areas for harvest 2017.

For the past few years, the AHDB have commissioned the Early Bird Survey, which assesses cropping changes from year to year and asks farmers for their intentions for late winter and spring planting. The survey is published in early November and provides the first insight into the following year’s crop, ahead of the official statistics from Defra.

It is difficult to make a prediction for next summer’s area at present being that spring drilling is still such a big unknown.

Many factors will contribute to a grower’s decision on whether they will opt for autumn or spring drilling. These will include; the severity of winter weather, timeliness of spring, cultural control and potential crop margins are only some factors affecting the decision to spring drill.

The wheat area is expected to fall very marginally by 1% to 1.8 million hectares and includes spring wheat, which with a greater emphasis this year, is expected to rise within the total wheat area. The forecast wheat area for 2017 equates to an area 4% below the past five year average.

For spring barley, aside from 2013 which was driven by poor weather conditions in autumn 2012, this would be the highest area of spring barley on records going back to 1997. The largest increases in spring barley are in the areas most affected by blackgrass. If the current price spread between wheat and barley continues, there is chance of a switch for some of this area into more spring wheat. Winter barley yields for 2016 were generally poor which, when combined with the added grass-weed control benefits of spring cropping, are likely to be turning many towards spring varieties.

The area of oats for the past four years has been above historical averages. The area for 2017 is projected to reduce by 8% to 130 thousand hectares.

Oats are said to be a cheap crop to grow and is profitable for many, the grass weed challenges are a limiting factor for the area allowed to be grown. This is despite reported growing market demand.

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