According to the Home Grown Cereals Authority’s Early Bird Survey of UK tillage farmers’ planting intentions for 2015, a reduction in the area of wheat, oats and oilseeds for harvest 2015, compared with 2014, is on the cards.

The key findings of the survey are that wheat is down 5% to 1.8Mha; oats down 13% to 118,000ha; winter barley up 12% to 476,000ha; spring barley up 9% to 713,000ha; oilseed rape down 4% to 649,000ha; pulses up 24% to 171,000ha

The results of submissions from a team of agronomists, assessing in excess of 250,000ha arable land across Britain, predict that the total wheat area will fall by 5% compared with 2014, to 1.8Mha. The biggest percentage reduction in area compared with 2014 is forecasted for oats, which is seen down by 13% to a more ‘typical’ area of 118,000ha.

In this annual autumn survey, which provides the industry with a first snapshot of national planting decisions, cropping changes on individual farms in Britain were taken as representative of national UK changes, assessing crops already drilled and growers’ planting intentions.

“For next year’s harvest, we are looking at a reduced wheat area, following a reasonably strong, but not record, area for harvest 2014. Lower areas for wheat could well be driven by a response to upcoming new CAP regulations, a greater need for cultural control of key weeds such as black-grass and lower grain prices, which change the economics of crop rotations,” explained Brenda Mullan, an analyst with the Authority.

“In contrast, the areas for both winter and spring barley are expected to be up on last year’s levels, by 12% and 9% respectively. At a forecasted area of 476,000ha for winter barley, if materialised, this would be the biggest area since 2002. However, the total figures for both winter and spring barley are tentative at this stage, given the large contribution that spring barley makes to the total area.

“It is likely that the area sown to barley, particularly the spring varieties will increase as a result of the three-crop rule. This season’s Early Bird Survey results show that the industry already appears to have factored in the new EU regulations in advance of their implementation in January 2015.

The 2015 area for pulses represents the biggest annual increase in the survey results, up 24% to 171,000ha, from 138,000ha this year (Defra June Survey results).

“It is thought that policy support, coupled with current economics for pulses, attributed to the increase in planting intentions for these crops,” Brenda Mullan explained.

“Our experience of examining the results of the Early Bird Survey against actual outturns later in the season has shown that,all things being equal, the survey results give a good intention of areas, particularly for key autumn sown crops in the UK.”