Early Bird Survey

Updated 19 November 2021
The Early Bird Survey (EBS) takes place each autumn to assess national cropping intentions. It is undertaken by The Andersons Centre, with the help of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) and other agronomists.

Early Bird Survey of Planting and Planting Intentions – November 2021

This year’s Early Bird Survey shows a strong continuation of winter cropping for 2021/22, perhaps not surprising with favourable autumn drilling conditions for many farms.

Winter cereals cropping increases on favourable autumn and strong prices

The intended wheat area for 2022 is forecast[1] up 1.3% year-on-year, to 1,811Kha. This is higher than the average UK area of 1,773Kha over the past 10 years (2012-2021) and back in line with the 2019 area (1,816Kha). An increase in expected wheat cropping will not be surprising for many, considering the favourable autumn drilling conditions combined with current high UK feed wheat prices.

Estimated 2022 winter barley area is also up, while the area to spring barley is back again on the year. With favourable autumn drilling conditions and strong grain prices, this may not be surprising given winter barley is, on average, higher yielding than spring barley. The 2022 area for winter barley is expected to increase 2.8% to 415Kha, higher than both the 5-year (395Kha) and 10-year average (398Kha). Spring barley intentions are expected to be back 7.7% year-on-year, to 688Kha, the lowest area since 2016 if realised. However, as spring barley has yet to be planted, we could see some changes should prices remain strong, and rotation allows you to do so.

Oat cropping intentions are set to fall 5.0% for 2022, to 189Kha. This would be just above the 5-year average (2017-2021) of 185Kha. With oats holding a sizable discount to other cereals this season, a move towards other cropping may not be surprising.

The return of oilseed rape? Not quite…

The oilseed rape area rebound was expected by many. The estimated increase of 12.9% would be the first yearly rise since 2018. However, at 345Kha, this would still behind 2020 (380Kha) and the 5-year average (2017-2021) at 472Kha. It is important to remember this is drilled area too.

With forward prices for rapeseed attractive, many might have been expecting a larger area rebound. New crop prices for Paris rapeseed (Nov-22) have been climbing all season. However, some cropping decisions may have been made before large price gains. High input prices and the persistent issue of cabbage stem flea beetle may be capping gains in UK area grown.

In further break crops, other oilseeds are expected to decline 6.7% on the year. Pulses too are forecast down on the year, by 5.1% to 235Kha, bringing pulses cropping area back to 2020 levels (233Kha). This change back is likely down to an extension of cereal rotations, with pulses yields still considered variable year-on-year. Also, seed availability will be a factor too.

Surprisingly, forecast arable fallow area for 2022 is up. Increasing by 15%, this brings arable fallow to 306Kha. This could be linked to the move in domestic policy from direct payments, with perhaps less productive land earmarked for environmental schemes. Rising input costs too may be a factor in decision making.

Early Bird Survey table Nov 21

The AHDB Early Bird Survey is carried out each autumn to assess national cropping intentions. It is undertaken by The Andersons Centre, with the help of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) and other agronomists.

This year’s survey covered 630Kha, which represents 13% of the UK area for the crops surveyed.

This year’s survey represents the intentions of farmers across the UK during a snapshot in time. Data was still being collected for these provisional results up until 15 November 2021.

Once Defra have released their final UK production estimates in December, including regional breakdowns, we will update our current survey with a more detailed regional update.

[1] Based on survey responses to mid-November 2021

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