1. Main findings
Area, yield and production definitions
Cereal and oilseed rape crop areas represent the amount of area that has been used to grow a particular crop, which is intended for combine harvesting and the production of grain or oilseeds. Area estimates are derived from the June Agricultural Census and specifically exclude any areas of cereals which are not intended for combine harvesting. Due to the later release of census results this year, provisional area estimates have been used. Whole crop cereals are harvested whole (i.e. without extracting the grain) and are used as a source of animal feed.
Average yields are expressed in tonnes per hectare and represent the amount of cereal grain or oilseed that is extracted from one hectare of combine harvested area. As the moisture content of cereals and oilseeds can vary from year-to-year and farm-to-farm, depending on the level of rainfall, average yields are adjusted to a standard moisture content of 14.5 per cent for cereals and nine per cent for oilseeds. This adjustment ensures there is consistency in estimates of the amount of dry matter which can be extracted from cereal grain and oilseeds.
Production estimates are derived by multiplying crop areas (in hectares) and average yields (in tonnes per hectare). They represent the total tonnage of cereal grain and oilseed that is combine harvested from the planted area. This tonnage does not include the weight of straw and other plant material which is produced as a by-product and used for other purposes.
When discussing production and area we are referring to estimated totals. When discussing yield we are referring to estimated averages.
First estimates of the Scottish cereal and oilseed rape harvest are derived at the annual Crop Report Meeting (CRM). A panel of experts from the Scottish cereal industry provide their estimates of the harvest yields, based on their initial soundings, and these are applied to provisional data for areas sown. This year’s Crop Report Meeting took place on Monday 25th September. When the meeting took place the harvest was still underway in some areas of Scotland.
Final estimates of the 2017 cereal and oilseed rape harvest, based on data gathered from a sample of farms across Scotland, will be available in December. They are usually within five per cent of the first estimates of production.
Provisional estimates for the 2017 harvest, based on industry reports, suggest that
- total cereal production is estimated to have increased by 333,000 tonnes, or 12 per cent, to 3.08 million tonnes, the third highest on record.
- the overall increase in cereal production this year is due to an 11 per cent increase in yield and a one per cent increase in area. The overall yield of 7.1 tonnes per hectare would be the highest on record.
- spring barley is reported to have experienced a 16 per cent increase in production, to 1.51 million tonnes. This was due to a 14 per cent increase in yield and a two per cent increase in area. The expected yield of 6.2 tonnes per hectare would be the highest on record.
- winter barley production increased by 13 per cent to 371,000 tonnes, due to a 14 per cent increase in yield and a one per cent reduction in area.
- wheat production increased seven per cent to 988,000 tonnes, due to a seven per cent increase in yield, while the total area again remained unchanged.
- oats are expected to see an eight per cent increase in production, to 217,000 tonnes, due to a five per cent increase in planted area and a three per cent increase in yield.
- oilseed rape production increased by 38 per cent to 140,000 tonnes, relative to the record low of 2016, with an 11 per cent increase in area and a 24 per cent increase in yield.
Chart 1: Cereal Production Trends, 1998 to 2017
The average total yield across the most recent ten years is four per cent above the previous decade's. Long term increases are likely to be due to improved efficiency in practices, development and use of high yielding varieties.
The large percentage increase this year is partly due to the poor harvest last year. However, production in 2017 is expected to be six per cent above the average for the decade. Despite some wet conditions during harvest, and a period of very dry weather earlier in the year, spring sowings were well established and moisture came at the right time to encourage growth. Moisture content at harvest is high, meaning that drying costs will have increased considerably this year.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the forecast for world cereal production in 2017 is at 2.61 billion tonnes, very slightly above the 2016 record.