Rains set up UK for weak wheat harvest in 2013 too

The wet weather which devastated the UK's latest wheat harvest has raised the likelihood of another below-par crop in 2013 by cutting plantings to the lowest in more than a decade - while raising the threat of spring barley seed supplies running dry.

The persistence of rain after the wettest summer in a century has cut British farmers' expectations for wheat area - usually autumn sown - to 1.756m hectares, a drop of 11.9% year on year, and the lowest since 2000-01, a survey by the Andersons Centre said.

"Drilling conditions have been some of the worst in memory due to continuously heavy rain and poor soil conditions," the consultancy said.

Indeed, harvested area could be lower, "when waterlogged patches and slug damaged areas in fields that will not justify redrilling are accounted for".

Poor omen

While Andersons stopped short of making a production forecast, any comparison with the 2001 harvest bodes ill in that, coming in at less than 11.6m tonnes, it was one of the lowest in recent history, beneath even this year's 13.3m-tonne crop.

Even factoring in a bumper 2008-level yield results in a harvest of 13.6m tonnes, well below the recent average of approaching 15m tonnes.

Yield prospects for next year's harvest have not been helped by delays by farmers completing even their lowered planting intentions, with an estimated 70% of winter crops sown, Origin Enterprises, the owner of the Agrii agronomy chain, said earlier this week.

Spring barley splurge

Winter barley sowings also look set to be hit by the poor conditions, seen down 9.1% at 350,000 hectares.

However, "as a result, the spring barley area is forecast to the higher", Andersons said, soaring to 856,000 hectares, by far the highest since at least the 1990s.

British plantings of spring barley, the source of malting barley supplies, have not reached even 600,000 hectares any year since records going back to 1999.

Indeed, the extent of sowing ambitions is so high that  seed merchants may prove unable to fulfil it.

"Seed availability could change this [planting] scenario, with land destined for spring barley also likely to be cropped with spring wheat or spring oats should there be insufficient seed available."

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