Survey reveals lowest arable planted area in more than 20 years

AHDB’s latest Planting and Variety Survey, conducted from 15 April to 14 June 2024, shows a dramatic decline in cereals and oilseed rape (OSR) planted in Great Britain (GB) this year – down by five per cent in 2024 to the lowest level for over two decades. A modest rise in the barley (6%) and oats (9%) areas is more than offset by the decline in wheat and OSR areas (9-21% respectively).

According to the Met Office, rainfall over the UK from September 2023 to May 2024 was the greatest on record since 1836, at 1,157 mm. It was 25 per cent above the five-year average 2018/19 – 2022/23.

AHDB Analyst Matt Darragh said, “This substantial rainfall across the UK considerably limited the opportunity farmers had to undertake winter and spring planting. What’s more, it has meant unfavourable growing conditions for the crops that were planted, with sunshine hours the lowest since 1995 – 96.

“The falls in winter cropping and rises in spring cropping are less severe than AHDB’s Early Bird Survey (EBS) indicated back in early March. However, this likely reflects the wetter than usual conditions continuing through the spring. Some winter crops, which were in poor condition and targeted to be replaced with spring options, may have been kept because the weather offered limited windows to sow spring crops.

“Overall, the reduced area and poorer crop conditions, especially for winter crops, points to lower cereals and OSR production in 2024.”

While some regions in GB were more impacted than others, most saw declines in cropping. However, in Northern Ireland, the total wheat and barley area is estimated to be up two per cent on the year and six per cent over the five-year average at 30.5 Kha.

Key findings of the Planting & Variety Survey 2024: 

  • For UK, the total wheat area is estimated to be 1,560 Kha, nine per cent down on the year. This is the second smallest planted area since 1981, behind 2020.
  • For UK, the total barley area is up by six per cent, at 1,207 Kha. However, this is only one per cent over the five-year average. The spring barley area rose considerably (18 per cent) to an estimated 804 Kha, the third largest area for at least 20 years. Meanwhile, winter barley fell by 12 per cent to 402 Kha in 2024; two per cent below the five-year average.
  • In GB, the oats area is estimated at 180 Kha, a nine per cent increase from last year.  While this is historically high, the area is two per cent below the five-year average.
  • For GB, the OSR area is estimated to decline by 21 per cent to 307 Kha. This would be the second lowest area since at least the year 2000 and 59 per cent below the peak area in 2012 for the same period.
  • For GB, total cereals area falls by three per cent to 2,916 Kha, the lowest area since 2007.
  • For GB, total cereals and OSR area falls by five per cent to 3,223 Kha, the lowest area since at least the turn of the century, notably pressured by a historically low OSR area.


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