Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Winter rape area set to stabilise this autumn, suggests study

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

RapeSprayer

Most farmers are planning to plant a similar amount of winter oilseed rape this autumn as they did last year, suggests the latest annual intentions survey.

After five years of decline, the national winter oilseed rape area is set to stabilise this autumn at just over 550,000 ha, according to the OSR Planting Intentions Study – conducted by researchers from Independent Business Resource in conjunction with the Kleffmann Group.

Most farmers are planning to plant a similar amount of OSR to last autumn. Just over 20% intend to reduce their area of the crop this season – but this is almost exactly balanced by those intending to increase plantings.

The net result is a predicted year-on-year decline in the national winter OSR area of well under 1% compared with the average annual reduction of well over 4% seen from 2012, although this will clearly depend on the performance of the current crop and conditions around planting.

Stabilisation

“We’re definitely seeing a stabilisation of winter OSR growing,” said IBR study organiser Roger Pratchett. “There is, of course, plenty of scope for change before planting time. But sensitivity analysis of our data indicates as least as much, if not more, upside than downside potential.”

Regardless of their planting intentions, the latest study of 200 growers – selected to be representative of national cropping – shows the overwhelming driver for the amount of oilseed rape growers plan to drill this autumn is their rotational schedule.

Overall, rotational schedule this is more than 15 times as important as the biggest agronomic threat driving current oilseed rape planting decisions – flea beetle – underlining the degree of certainty around the figures.

Detailed study

Dekalb marketing manager Deryn Gilbey said: “This latest market intelligence parallels the findings of our more detailed study of winter rape attitudes and intentions involving nearly 250 growers from 46 UK counties this season.

“Only a very small minority of growers intend to give up oilseed rape growing altogether. Not surprisingly, these are concentrated in the central and eastern counties which suffered particularly badly from last autumn’s lack of moisture as well as flea beetle.”

Mr Gilbey added: “More than this, though, our study shows these parts of the country achieved average yields of just 3.32t/ha over the past three seasons compared to 3.8 t/ha or more for most of the rest of the country.”

Under these circumstances, the Dekalb study shows a proportion of growers – again mainly in these areas – are planning to reduce their plantings to extend rape to an average of once in every 4-5 years in their rotations.

Market prospects

In contrast, noticeably more of those in the north and west of the country are looking to maintain or increase their winter rape growing. Interestingly too, the number of growers still planning relatively tight rape rotations exceeds the number looking to rather longer rotations.

The stabilisation of rape growing suggested by both these studies is, perhaps, to be expected given the relatively good current market prospects for UK rapeseed, with continuing strong European demand for both rapeseed oil and meal.

Because Europe remains far from self-sufficient in vegetable oil production, rape is less vulnerable to world market fluctuations than feed grains. Equally, it offers opportunities to replace imports of palm oil with healthier and more environmentally-sound home production.

Mr Gilbey explained:“Changes in the value of sterling will be important in determining future UK prices. But these will impact commodity markets to the same extent, so will have little or no effect on the relative position of rapeseed against alternative crops.”

Profitability

Rape remained second only in profitability to first wheat for UK growers, maintaining its clear advantage over all alternative cereal breaks, said Mr Gilbey. “Winter rape seems set to remain popular wherever it can be grown with sufficient reliability,” he concluded.

“With their clear performance advantages, growers in the west and north look better placed than most to take advantage of opportunities in the UK market resulting from issues with the crop in other parts of the country.”

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