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 26th September. When the meeting took place the harvest was still underway in some areas of Scotland.
Final estimates of the 2016 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 2016 harvest, based on industry reports, suggest that
- total cereal production is estimated to have fallen by 327,000 tonnes, or 11 per cent, to 2.77 million tonnes, and was the second lowest since 2007.
- the overall reduction in cereal production this year is due to a three per cent fall in area and a seven per cent fall in yields.
- spring barley suffered a 17 per cent fall in production, to 1.27 million tonnes, the lowest since 1998. This was due to a seven per cent fall in area and an 11 per cent fall in yield.
- winter barley production fell by 15 per cent to 345,000 tonnes, due to a seven per cent reduction in area and an eight per cent fall in yield.
- wheat production fell six per cent to 953,000 tonnes, due to a seven per cent decrease in yield, while the total area remained unchanged.
- oats were the only cereal expected to see an increase in production. Production increased by over a third to 206,000 tonnes due to a 22 per cent increase in planted area and an 11 per cent increase in yield.
- oilseed rape production fell by 37 per cent to 94,000 tonnes, due to a 14 per cent decrease in area and a 27 per cent reduction in yield.
Chart 1: Cereal Production Trends, 1997 to 2016
The average yield across the most recent ten years is five 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.
There was no one explanation for why the 2016 harvest was relatively poor. There was a three per cent reduction in the overall sown area. High winds spoilt the oilseed harvest, but there were no particular meteorological issues affecting the cereals. There was less than ideal weather at several stages of the cycle, and the relatively wet weather last winter possibly meant the seed beds were less than ideal. A low expectation of price may have led some farmers to reduce inputs, but the lack of warmth and sunlight during the summer meant that this yielded smaller grain.
Global supply of cereals is set to surpass 2.5 billion tonnes for the first time, according to a report  by the International Grains Council, a result that comes despite a decline in EU soft wheat production due to poor weather.