OILSEED rape (OSR) plantings in Great Britain for harvest 2018 have bounced back, according to provisional figures from AHDB’s Early Bird Survey.

Good moisture levels and less flea beetle damage than last year meant there was a favourable establishment period this autumn, so less of the OSR crop is likely to be written off as failed crops.

Following five consecutive years of decline, the forecast area of OSR has increased by nine per cent compared with harvest 2017 – the first time the area has been more than 600,000 hectares (ha) in three years. However it is still 19 per cent below the 2012 harvest record area of 756,000 ha.

Daniel Rooney, AHDB analyst, said planting decisions were also driven by improved gross margins or higher prices, together with poor alternative options for break crops.

In some cases, OSR will have been the most profitable crop for 2017, therefore influencing areas for 2018.

In contrast, AHDB says autumn drilling conditions for other crops have been difficult in many parts of the UK following a long and late harvest, slowing winter plantings and making winter drilling later than usual.

Coupled with agronomic incentives for more spring cropping and lower costs of production for some crops, the trend of less autumn drilling appears to be continuing.

Mr Rooney said: "This means that we are seeing a continued squeeze on the wheat area as well as our ongoing love-affair with spring barley."

The wheat area is forecast to fall by two per cent to 1.752Mha for harvest 2018, the fourth consecutive decline in area and three per cent below the last five-year average.

The winter barley area is expected to fall nine per cent, while the area of spring barley is expected to continue its rise with the 2018 area forecast up three per cent at 773,000ha.

The area of oats in recent harvests has been above historical averages with a rising trend. However, the area for 2018 is projected to fall by less than one per cent to 160,000ha.

AHDB expects the area of pulses to fall by six per cent, wiping out the gains they had made in the last two years. It said it is not surprising that peas and beans are losing area, given the change in Greening rules, specifically the ban on pesticide use in pulses used for Ecological Focus Areas. Market prospects for beans, even with good human consumption samples, are relatively poor at present.