Harvest estimates for 2016 sow seeds of doubt

Spring barley, Scotland's most important cereal crop, has taken the biggest hit. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Spring barley, Scotland's most important cereal crop, has taken the biggest hit. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
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Confirmation that harvest 2016 will not go down as a vintage year came yesterday with the first estimates showing an 11 per cent drop in production, to 4 per cent lower than the ten-year average.

While there has been no single catastrophic weather condition responsible for the fall, there have been a series of less than ideal factors.

The provisional figures produced by Scotland’s chief statistician show Scottish farms are estimated to have produced 2.8 million tonnes of cereals this year – 1.6 million tonnes of barley, one million tonnes of wheat and the balance in oats.

The figures show that this year’s fall in production is down to an anticipated 7 per cent fall in overall cereal yields combined with a reduced acreage cropped.

READ MORE: Spring barley slower to ripen north of the Border

The total area of land sown decreased by 3 per cent, with an estimated 428,000 hectares of cereal grown in 2016. On this first estimate, overall yields are expected to range from 5.3 tonnes per hectare for spring barley to 8.7 tonnes per hectare for wheat.

Spring barley, Scotland’s most important cereal crop, has taken the biggest hit with a 17 per cent fall in production to 1.27 million tonnes – the lowest tonnage since 1998. Winter barley saw a 15 per cent drop to 345,000 tonnes, with wheat holding slightly more steady, with a 7 per cent drop.

Benefitting from the EU “three-crop rule”, oats saw positive results, with the crop expected to top 200,000 tonnes for the first time since the 1970s.

Oilseed rape is expected to have a particularly poor year, yields averaging around three tonnes per hectare, resulting in the lowest production since records began in 1992, at 94,000 tonnes.

Gavin Dick, of AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Scotland, said: “In some regions we have seen some good yields, while others are seeing significant declines.”

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