The area of wheat planted in Great Britain has continued to decline while the area of spring barley planted last year increased.

At 1.74 million hectares, the 2018 GB wheat area is estimated 2% lower than in 2017.

The figures have just been released as part of the findings of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) 2018 Planting and Variety Survey.

The key findings of the survey found that in Great Britain:

  • Wheat area is estimated at 1.74 million hectares, a 2% decrease from 2017;
  • Spring barley area is estimated at 768,000ha, up 4% from 2017;
  • Winter barley area is estimated at 385,000ha, 7% than 2017.

The survey of 6,832 farms also showed:

  • The area of oilseed rape in England and Scotland is estimated at 608,000ha; up 9% from 2017;
  • The area of oats in England and Scotland is estimated at 156,000ha; a 2% increase from 2017.


The largest wheat area reductions are in the Eastern region and the South East and London, where black-grass remains a key challenge.

For harvest 2018, the declining wheat area in the Eastern region has seemingly been replaced by oilseed rape rather than spring barley, as in previous years.

Yields will need to be above the five-year average for domestic wheat supply to increase in 2018/19.

This is because the 2017/18 wheat end-season stocks are estimated to be the lowest since 2013/14 and the GB wheat area continues to decline into 2018.

Given the current dry conditions, and the potential impact on yields if continued, this will be unlikely. AHDB will be looking at supply and demand in more detail and producing production scenarios later this summer.


In terms of varieties, nabim Group 1 and 2 varieties are estimated to account for 38% of the 2018 GB wheat area, slightly down from 40% in 2017.

Regionally, the Eastern area of Group 1 and 2 represents 110,000ha and 65,000ha respectively, and the South East and London 103,000ha and 19,000ha.

These two regions represent just under half of the nabim Group 1 and 2 area.

In 2018, the nabim Group 3 varieties account for 8% of the GB wheat area, up from 5% in 2017, a 50,000ha rise.

Following the introduction of higher-yielding Group 3 varieties, such as KWS Barrel and Basset, which were added to the recommended list in 2016/17, there has been a notable increase in the 2018 Group 3 area.

The nabim Group 4 area change is split between Hard and Soft. The Group 4 Hard area for GB as a whole remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, the Group 4 Soft area has seen a 9% reduction, mainly driven by a 27% reduction in Scotland, seemingly replaced by the Group 3 wheats.


Overall the GB barley area in 2018 remains unchanged year-on-year.

However, with lower yielding spring barley accounting for a greater percentage of the total, yields will need to be above average to maintain production levels. Given the current dry conditions, this will be challenging.

Given that forage availability is tight, there is also a possibility that not all crops will be harvested for grain.

The GB winter barley area has undergone a significant reduction for harvest 2018. At 385,000ha, the area reported is down 7% from 2017; a reduction of 31,000ha year-on-year.

In Scotland, the reduction in winter barley to 39,000ha will be the lowest area this millennium.

At 768,000ha, the GB spring barley area is estimated to be 4% higher than in 2017, the fourth year in a row that the spring barley area has expanded.

The increase is primarily driven by an area expansion in Scotland, the North West and Yorkshire. This suggests that spring barley was a necessary planting decision in areas unable to plant winter cropping options for 2018, combined with a lower cost of production than winter barley.

Overall, malting barley varieties with full approval from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling for harvest 2018 account for 57% of the total GB barley area.

This is up from 2017, when malting barley varieties accounted for 50% of GB area.

However, the figures only include varieties with full approval. Due in part to the full approval of Laureate for 2018, the area suitable for maltsters may not have risen by the same extent.


At a combined 156,000ha, the total oat area across England and Scotland is up 2% from 2017.

At 32,000ha, the Scottish area represents a 1% decline from 2017, driven by a decline in winter oats, which is not fully compensated by a rise in spring oats.

While, the English area at 124,000ha is a 3% increase from 2017, driven predominantly by a 4,000ha rise in the South West.