So far this winter in the Borders we have not had any measurable snow fall, but have had some good hard frosts and now that the winter solstice is past, we will soon see the daylight hours increase as we head into 2018.

In the US, the risk of a La Nina weather event has increased from 65% up to 80% and could last through to late spring. This would see warmer/drier weather than normal across key North and South American cereal and soyabean growing regions.

As temperatures remain above average, the lack of snow cover presents a potential, rather than actual threat to crops at this stage, but 24% of the US is in 'moderate' drought, mainly in the plains which is where winter wheat is grown.

Kansas is the biggest winter wheat producer and is 99% dry. This is up from 18% mid-November and follows above normal temperatures and little to no rain.

Defra, in its final 2017 UK crop areas and yield report, has estimated UK wheat production at 14.8m tonnes, which is 326,000 tonnes lower than their previous estimate last October. The downward revision is due to lower estimated yield, which is now put at 8.3 t/ha, rather than the 8.5 t/ha it thought previously.

On a regional basis, the largest downward revision in yield was for Scotland. It's now estimated at 8.1 t/ha down from 9.0 t/ha estimate in October.

The lower 2017 wheat production number means that the UK wheat supply and demand balance is even tighter than estimated previously.

Canada has increased its wheat crop by 3m tonnes which helped to grow total global wheat production to 755m tonnes – the fifth consecutive year of record increases in tonnage. It also sees a new record level of wheat stocks at 268m tonnes, which could affect prices going into 2018.

The German wheat area sown for 2018 harvest has fallen to 2.98m ha which is a decrease of 4.7% year-on-year and the total area sown for winter cereals was also down by 2% year-on-year. This was due to adverse autumn weather conditions in Northern Europe, during which repeated rainfall disrupted field work and stopped the sowing of many winter crops.

Historically, around 96% of the total German wheat crop is winter sown so unless higher yields are recorded in 2018, German wheat output could well decrease next year. It is the EU’s second largest wheat producer and is also a supplier of high protein wheat to the UK. During the past three seasons, an average of 20% of all UK wheat imports have come from Germany.

There is some uncertainty surrounding EU rapeseed production. The area planted to oilseed rape in the EU could drop by as much as 8% to 6m ha over the course of the next decade at least. This projected fall follows uncertainty over the future of first generation biofuels in the EU, as opposed to second generation biofuels.

Rapeseed oil in the EU accounts for around 62% of all vegetable oils used in the production of biofuels. Fist generation biofuels are those derived from starch, sugar, animal fats or vegetable oils, while second generation biofuels come from non-food products or waste food products, such as used cooking oils.

In the UK, very little rapeseed, if any, is used in the production of biodiesel and the five-year average usage of UK rapeseed for biodiesel is 0.9% of the total UK rapeseed area.

In comparison, the 2017-18 US maize use for ethanol production is forecast to be a record 140m tonnes and this consumes 38% of the US maize crop and 13% of the total global crop.

In the near future, the 2018 French rapeseed area is expected to increase by 9.5%, with winter rapeseed plantings increasing to 1.54m ha. However, this will still be below the OSR planted area seen in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

The higher price of rapeseed relative to cereals this season helped the expansion of rapeseed area, along with ideal planting conditions.

Further uncertainty for rapeseed production is expected to come from an ever-increasing presence of soyabeans in the oilseed complex and there is a projected 28% increase in global production of soybeans by 2030. That also means that usage of soya meal is expected to grow in the EU over the next 13 years, due to a rise in the production of livestock.

Global production of soya is put at 348.5m tonnes and global end stocks have increased up to 98.3m tonnes. The increase in global stocks is due mainly to reduced US export projections of 680,000 tonnes.

However, dry weather in Argentina could affect the soya planted area with more than a third of the total 6.6m ha estimated area still to be planted and is falling behind schedule due to the expected dry weather.

It just remains for me to wish you all a very happy, merry and prosperous new year in 2018 – let's hope we have a better year for arable farmers this time around!