Crop development

March 2024
The interactive tool at the bottom of this page helps show the condition and growth stages of different crops across GB. The chart is split into regions and uses colours to show different conditions. You can also use the bottom chart to see growth stages of cereals or oilseeds.


The UK has experienced the second wettest August through February since 1837, since records began. The worst conditions have been in the East Midlands and neighbouring regions of the West Midlands, East, and Yorkshire and the Humber. Conditions have been poorer than usual in most parts of England, including the South West, although for many, not as extreme as the Midlands. The weather in Scotland has reduced winter cropping, but by less than Central England as conditions have not been so unusual and more cropping in Scotland is spring planted, though this is also delayed.

Fieldwork is now taking place on lighter, better draining soils and drier areas, and these farmers are now making headway with spring drilling and crop treatments. But for some farms fieldwork is still not possible, and some efforts have damaged tramlines or soil structure. Some growers will be making large fertiliser applications as the crops are hungry, and first nitrogen applications are later than usual.

Targeting inputs is generally the biggest challenge at present for winter crops – where do you stop and start in patchy crops that are not bad enough to replace with a spring crop? What do you commit to spend and apply? This is all linked to yield potential, which is inevitably very difficult to predict at present. It will not be good in many cases.

The 2024 harvest will comprise a lower than usual winter area, with considerably lower winter crop yields. The spring planted area is likely to be higher than normal, but it is too early to say with confidence on areas or yield potential. There is always considerable variation in yield and quality but expect this to be amplified this year.

The information in this report was captured up to Tuesday 26 March 2024 for AHDB by The Andersons Centre. Key differences between crops are explored below, with more detail in the full report.

Crop condition definitions

Crop condition was assessed using the USDA approach. This classifies crops into one of five categories, from very poor through to excellent (see details below). The values are given as the percentage of the GB crop area for that crop that falls in each of the categories – regional condition scores are available on the crop reporting dashboard at the bottom of this page.

  • Very Poor - Extreme degree of loss to yield potential, complete or near crop failure.
  • Poor - Heavy degree of loss to yield potential, which can be caused by excess soil moisture, drought, disease, etc.
  • Fair - Less than normal crop condition. Yield loss is a possibility, but the extent is unknown.
  • Good - Yield prospects are normal. Moisture levels are adequate and disease, insect damage, and weed pressures are minor.
  • Excellent - Yield prospects are above normal. Crops are experiencing little or no stress. Disease, insect damage, and weed pressures are insignificant.

From March 2024, the survey work was undertaken by The Andersons Centre, while for previous years the survey work was undertaken by RSK ADAS; please take this into consideration when comparing to historical figures.

Winter wheat

The national condition of wheat is considerably poorer than usual, with just 34% of the GB winter wheat crop rated as in a good or excellent condition. At the end of March 2023, 90% of the crop was rated good or excellent.  

At this stage of spring, the UK may not have experienced such a poor looking crop in living memory, possibly longer. Wheat regularly astounds on its ability to recover from poor winters; this year will be a major test of this ability. How crops develop over the next month is key.

Chart showing winter wheat crop condtion scores as of March 2024

Winter barley

Winter barley established better than most winter wheat but is less resilient at overwintered stresses. Much of it now looks sick and desperately needs warmth and sunshine to get it going. Just 38% of GB winter barley is rated as in a good or excellent condition; a year ago 92% was rated good or excellent.  

Chart showing winter barley crop condtion scores as of March 2024

Winter oats

Winter oats have fared better than most winter crops. Oats are a strong and resilient crop with a wide planting window and many managed to establish better than other cereals in the less-than-ideal soil conditions. Even now, there are some winter oats yet to drill. While winter oat conditions are better than other winter crops, still only 37% of the GB crop is rated as good or excellent, and much lower than at the end of March 2023 (83%). 

Chart showing winter oat crop condtion scores as of March 2024

Winter oilseed rape

Winter oilseed rape (OSR) established better than most winter wheat, having had more time to develop before the autumn rain. However, after sitting in water for so long, many plants died and there are some very bare patches in the Midlands particularly. Overall, only 31% of the GB winter oilseed rape crop is rated as in good or excellent condition. This is well below the 70% rated good-excellent at the end of March 2023 and 64% at the same point in 2022.

Chart showing winter oilseed rape crop condtion scores as of March 2024

Spring crops

It is very early days as yet for drilling the 2024 spring crops. Much drilling is delayed in central regions of England, but some fields are seeing accelerating fieldwork as late March is drier for most than previous months and warmer weather is drying the soils.

Drilling is also late in Scotland with limited progress when normally Scotland would be progressing well with drilling by now. Drilling is pressing on in southern regions of England, but it is too premature to comment on the crop development as yet.

Some seeds will be going into a wholly unsuitable seedbed, having been drenched for six months, so will now be anaerobic and cold. The seedbeds may have also suffered after a failed winter crop, and heavy implements disrupted the already unstable soil structure. Time will tell how well the soils recuperate and how well seeds germinate.

A full spring crop update will be provided next month.

Download the latest crop development report

How to use the dashboard

  • Use the drop down menu at the top of the first chart to view the crop conditions of a particular crop in each region.

  • Use the drop down menus at the top of the second chart to view the percentage of a crop at each growth stage. The drop down menus can also be used to show the information for a particular region.

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