Up to a fifth of winter oilseed rape crops in England and Wales could be ripped up due to poor establishment after autumn plantings were seen as virtually unchanged.
An official survey put autumn drillings down just 1%, although 10-20% of that in the ground could be abandoned, and this is unlikely to be made up with increased spring oilseed rape.
With a lower crop area, this season's UK rapeseed harvest is forecast to be about 20% down at just over 2m tonnes, which is helping to keep post-harvest prices for July steady at around £355/t ex-farm.
This latest planting survey from the Home Grown Cereals Authority/Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (HGCA/AHDB) put the area of the winter crop down 1% at 688,000ha.
But with many crops going in late and then suffering heavy winter rainfall, many are looking patchy, thin and in desperate need of warmth and sunshine.
"Crop abandonment could be as high as 10-20%, but this will be determined by the weather in the next few weeks," says Jack Watts, AHDB senior analyst.
He points out the spring oilseed rape area will be higher, but is unlikely to mitigate the loss of some of the winter crop, with trade estimates putting the spring crop at 55,000ha after 2012's 12,000ha.
Last year, the UK oilseed rape crop covered 755,000ha, with 37,000ha in Scotland, and this produced a harvest crop of just over 2.5m tonnes.
Owen Cligg, trading manager at United Oilseeds, is optimistic the UK crop this year will top 2m tonnes and again says the next few weeks into April will be critical.
"Abandonment could be as much as 20%, but our feeling is that this is a big figure and it will be nearer 10%," he says.
He believes ripping up oilseed crops at this stage will be a low priority for growers faced with a 25% fall in winter wheat autumn plantings and searching for replacement spring crops.
Mr Watts agrees: "For many farmers, the first priority is likely to be establishing crops on remaining bare land before replanting poor oilseed rape crops".
The full survey showed a 19% fall to 2.417m hectares for winter crops of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed for plantings made up to 1 December 2012, in England and Wales.
The winter wheat area was down 25% at 1.394m ha, winter barley off 19% at 279,000ha and oats down 30% at 56,000ha. The HGCA/AHDB will carry out a full planting and variety survey this spring, with results released in the summer.
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