March 18, 2013


UK winter rapeseed crops may be uprooted due to poor establishment


Up to a fifth of winter rapeseed crops in England and Wales could be uprooted due to weak establishment, after autumn plantings were shown to remain unchanged.


An official survey put autumn drillings down just 1%, although 10-20% of that in the ground could be abandoned, and this is unlikely to be made up with increased spring rapeseed.


With a lower crop area, this season's UK rapeseed harvest is forecast to be about 20% down at just over two million tonnes, which is helping to keep post-harvest prices for July steady.


This latest planting survey from the Home Grown Cereals Authority/Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (HGCA/AHDB) put the area of the winter crop down 1% at 688,000 hectares.


However, with many crops going in late and suffering heavy winter conditions, many are looking patchy and in desperate need of sunshine.


"Crop abandonment could be as high as 10-20%, but this will be determined by the weather in the next few weeks," says Jack Watts, AHDB senior analyst.


He points out the spring rapeseed area will be higher, but is unlikely to mitigate the loss of some of the winter crop, with trade estimates putting the spring crop at 55,000 hectares after 2012's 12,000 hectares.


Last year, the UK rapeseed crop covered 755,000 hectares, with 37,000 hectares in Scotland, and this produced a harvest crop of just over 2.5 million tonnes.


Owen Cligg, trading manager at United Oilseeds, is optimistic that the UK crop this year will top two million tonnes and says that the next few weeks into April will be critical.


"Abandonment could be as much as 20%, but our feeling is that this is a big figure and it will be nearer 10%," he says.


He believes uprooting oilseed crops at this stage will be a low priority for growers faced with a 25% fall in winter wheat autumn plantings and searching for replacement spring crops.


Mr Watts agrees: "For many farmers, the first priority is likely to be establishing crops on remaining bare land before replanting poor rapeseed crops".


The full survey showed a 19% fall to 2.417 million hectares for winter crops of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed for plantings made up to December 1, 2012, in England and Wales.


The winter wheat area was down 25% at 1.394 million hectares, winter barley off 19% at 279,000 hectares and oats down 30% at 56,000 hectares. The HGCA/AHDB will carry out a full planting and variety survey this spring, with results released in the summer.

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