Origin Enterprises underlined a divide in European Union autumn sowings fortunes, even as the International Grains Council signalled higher expectations for UK rapeseed sowings – although making its biggest upgrade in Ukraine.
Origin Enterprises, the group behind the Agrii agronomy chain, said that planting of winter crops in Ireland and the UK, ahead of the 20178 harvest, had “advanced well”, after delays early in the sowings window, which opens in August.
“Improved in-field conditions during October enabled significant catch up crop drilling activity”
The catch-up meant that combined UK plantings of winter rapeseed and wheat would come in at some 2.42m hectares, a rise of 2.8% year on year, although at the expense of spring seeding area, which is typically planted with the likes of barley or silage maize.
“Combined autumn, winter and spring plantings for the 2018 growing season are estimated to be in line with last year at 4.55m hectares with a reduction in spring plantings in favour of the more intensive autumn and winter crop production,” Origin Enterprises said.
It added that sown crops were “currently well established and in good condition”.
‘Difficult operating conditions’
By contrast, in the eastern European Union, the group highlighted that wet weather, which also dogged the summer harvest, had persisted to continue hampering autumn sowings too.
“Many farmers continue to experience difficult and challenging operating conditions,” Origin Enterprises said.
The delayed harvest, which had tied up ground with standing crop, and “poor ground conditions due to unsettled weather resulted in curtailed crop cultivation and maintenance activity in many growing regions of northern Poland”.
The group forecast winter crop sowings at 4.6m hectares, a drop of 2.9% year on year.
In Romania, while winter crop area was pegged at 3.2m hectares, in line with last year’s seedings, dry conditions had prompted “some localised concerns regarding winter rapeseed yield potential”.
The comments came as the International Grains Council, while sticking with expectations of overall EU rapeseed sowings holding steady year on year at 6.7m hectares, adjusted some individual country forecasts, including a more sanguine take on UK prospects.
After saying last month that the “prospects for a recovery of [US rapeseed] sowings appear limited”, the council said overnight that “plantings in the UK may expand”, although added that they “are unlikely to reach the highs of earlier years”.
UK rapeseed plantings tumbled by more than one-quarter from a high of 756,000 hectares in 2012, in a decline blamed broadly on an EU clampdown on neonicotinoid insecticides, which has weakened efforts to control cabbage stem flea beetle.
Sowings for this year were, at 563,000 hectares, the lowest since 2005.
By contrast, the council underlined expectations of a cut in rapeseed sowings in Germany, saying that “heavy rains resulted in overly soft soils, making fieldwork difficult”, adding that crop rotation needs may also have spurred declines “in some areas”.
Planting successive rapeseed crops tends to encourage the spread of diseases such as club root.
“Similar weather-related problems were observed in Poland, where sowings are seen falling year on year.”
‘Significant upward revision’
However, the IGC was upbeat over prospects for Ukraine rapeseed seedings, which it pegged at 890,000 hectares on a harvested basis, including the limited area planted in the spring, a rise of 112,000 hectares year on year and “a significant upward revision month on month”.
“Precipitation during October and early November was considered beneficial, replenishing top soil moisture, with most fields considered to be in good shape,” said the council, which had last month pegged area at 805,000 hectares.
Origin Enterprises, which also has a Ukraine agronomy chain, said that combined autumn sowings of cereals and rapeseed in the country had, at 7.8m hectares, matched last year’s, while seeing potential for a rise in spring seedings.
“Combined autumn and spring plantings are currently forecast at 22.7m hectares compared with 22.4m hectares for the prior year.”
The group also said that it expected a rise in spring sowings in Poland, to offset the setback to autumn plantings, and leave overall area “broadly equivalent” year on year, at 8.1m hectares.
Shares in Origin Enterprises, which reported a 3.9% rise to E346.7m in revenues for the August-to-October period, stood up 1.2% at E6.73 in late deals in Dublin.