UK sowings for next year's harvest look set to buck the
European trend of raised winter grain area at the expense of spring-crop seedings,
with rains adding autumn planting setbacks to their list of damage to agriculture.
Strategie Grains on Thursday forecast sharp drops in spring
sowings of grains - such as barley, down 8%, and corn, down 2.5% - as farmers
raise seedings of winter cereals, by 2.5% in the case of soft wheat.
The dynamic reflects expectations that farms will not, as in
February, suffer the frost damage to winter grains which prompted them to reseed
with spring crops, resulting in unusually large areas of the likes of spring
However, in the UK, the rains which have followed the
wettest summer in a century with yet more moisture, are preventing many growers
from sowing winter grains, prompting expectations that they will be forced to
leave unusually large areas vacant for spring plantings.
While some farmers have nearly finished seedings, "some have
barely started", Richard Whitlock, a director at the HGCA crop bureau said.
"Some are saying they may not be able to get on to the
fields at all" thanks to the extent of the rains, which have already cost the
UK an estimated 4m tonnes in wheat production, leaving the country on course,
unusually, to be a net importer in 2012-13.
Mr Whitlock told Agrimoney.com that some growers near where
he lives in eastern England had less than
20% of winter grains in the ground.
"There will be more area left over to spring," meaning extra
sowings of crops such as spring barley and beans, he said.
At Swiss-based consultancy RMI Analytics, Matthias Wrees
said that the poor UK planting conditions meant there was a "good chance that farmers
will plant more spring barley for next season".
This could potentially return the country to exporting malting
barley, which in the UK typically comes from spring crop, after a disappointing
harvest this year left users, in particularly in northern areas, facing the
need for imports, likely from Scandinavia.
However, there is mixed speculation over the degree to which
winter wheat sowings will be hurt, with talk in the seed industry that this
will be one of the worst-affected crops, but anecdotal evidence from farmers
suggesting that many are hanging on to sow even in January – later than normal,
but still an option in some areas.
However, it appears that seedings of rapeseed, for which the
sowings window has already closed, have already been affected, leading
potentially to a drop in area for a crop which has been increasingly popular in
Rapeseed area for the 2012 harvest hit a record 755,000
hectares, up 75% in a decade.
And what has emerged is poorly developed, thanks to the
weather, farmers told Agrimoney.com.
A drop in area in the UK, where rapeseed is by far the biggest
oilseed crop, would also run against the European trend, with Strategie Grains seeing
overall EU oilseed area rise by 500,000 hectares to 11.8m hectares.
Mr Whitlock also highlighted the threat to ground which has
been sown from the slugs encouraged by the wet conditions.
"Some farmers have never had such a bad time with slugs,"
which were following rows of seed "eating one seed and then just going on to
the next one", he said.