The Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) has published the provisional results from it’s ‘Early Bird’ planting survey for autumn 2023.

Autumn drilling conditions have been poor in many parts of the UK in later weeks of the planting season.

As a result, this has changed many growers’ 2023/24 cropping decisions at the last minute.

Given the challenges faced this autumn and the condition of soils, winter crop areas may be lower than this survey indicates.

AHDB will provide an update on the situation in early 2024 when planting progress allows.

The wheat area is currently projected to fall by 1.3%, all within the winter crop. This is primarily because the later weeks of the autumn cereals drilling period have been very difficult for many farming regions.

Spring wheat area is expected to be rising by as much as 23%, but from a very small area in 2023.

It is currently hoped that spring will offer better weather conditions, though there are no guarantees. If these planting intentions are confirmed, this would make the total wheat area for 2024 harvest, the lowest since 2020.

The winter barley area is expected to have fallen by 6%, whilst the area of spring barley is anticipated to rise by a considerable 13%.

The area of oats in the UK is projected to rise by 12%, with a decline in the winter oats area more than offset by a rise in spring area.

A decline of the planted area of oilseed rape (OSR) by 16% is predicted.

Anecdotal reports suggest the OSR area that will not make it to harvest might be greater than last year, because of heavy rain and water logging, as well as pests.

Often, when the OSR area falls, pulses tend to rise to fill the break crop gap. However, this does not appear to be the case this season, with pulses seen falling approximately 10% from last harvest.

A notable increase in area is expected for arable fallow, up 27% from 2023.

Amongst other crops, other oilseeds (including linseed and borage) are estimated down more than 22%, while other combinable cereals (including rye, triticale, and mixed grains) are also down 18%.

The last ‘catch-all’ category is – other crops on arable land. It is projected to rise by 8% and includes sugar beet, vegetables and other crops that appear in the arable farm rotation, such as temporary grass and maize.