WHILE OFFICIAL estimates of the UK’s autumn sowings won’t be officially unveiled until the beginning of next week, there’s little chance that they will show anything other than a massive slump in the area down to winter crops.

The combination of ongoing wet weather, a late tattie harvest and the move towards later sowing in many areas of England to help with weed and pest control has undoubtedly seen much seed intended for planting this back end remain in the bag.

On top of this, the challenging sowing and growing season to date – with slugs-a-plenty and soil conditions which have hampered both fertiliser applications and spray programmes – would point to the crops which some have managed to get in the ground facing an uphill battle if they are to yield anything approaching the crops harvested in 2019.

However, despite recent fluctuations, fears over a possible shortfall next year have seen a fair old increase in the wheat futures price, with both old and new crop – and the physical crop – showing some upward movement.

That said though, if you don’t have any in the ground, you’re not going to benefit much from such a shift.

However the big conundrum facing most growers will be in deciding what to sow in the spring. For, with the exception of a limited amount of spring wheat seed likely to be sown if and when the weather permits, the two main spring alternatives – barley and oats – already have a fair surplus from the 2018 harvest overhanging the market.

And with a potential for a massive increase in plantings of these crops in England, the domestic market is likely to stand well above saturation point, while the longer term prospects for tariffs on exports – while imports escape such levies – offers little joy for offloading our surplus at a financially viable level.

But with few real alternatives out there for Scottish cereal growers, it has never been more important for growers to kit themselves up with the sort of information which will give them the edge on the competition.

One fact which has been flagged up is that that careful variety choice will be of even greater importance than normal as growers seek to make a penny from next year’s grain harvest. And in just over a week’s time the Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) will launch the latest Cereal Recommended lists.

Giving farmers the lowdown on the latest varieties and developments in plant breeding aimed at providing improved agronomic characteristics and helping the industry meet the increasingly demanding requirements of the market place, the latest lists have always been hotly anticipated by go-ahead producers in the arable sector.

But, in a world exclusive, the readers of The Scottish Farmer need wait no more – as a leaked copy of the 2020/2021 recommendations has allowed this magazine to provide a sneak preview of the latest list.

And we can reveal that, in an unprecedented move, the UK’s likely exit from the EU has given the green light for novel breeding techniques to be used, resulting in a whole legion of new varieties coming onto the list, all of which are ideally suited to the up-to-the-minute demands of today’s cereal marketplace.

So read on and keep abreast of the latest developments in plant breeding provided in the descriptive list:

Brexit: What yield it will deliver remains unknown – and despite promises that it would be cut and in the shed 'do or die' by October 31, the harvest date still remains uncertain. While several commentators have suggested that those promoting the variety will one day “reap what they have sown”, yield estimates remain inconclusive, but likely to be negative – with knock on consequences for following crops.

Extension: Despite claims that the variety would not be available after October 31, it has been cultivated widely over the past 12 months and has proved to be suitable for sowing in both the spring (after March 31) and in the autumn (after October 31). Strong possibility that this variety could run and run.

Second Referendum: A variety which has been growing in popularity recently with considerable popular demand. However a shortage of seed could limit its success.

IndyRef #2: A sister variety to Second Referendum, this variety looks set to be sown on fertile soil north of the Border. While it might have been viewed as a second choice after its sister variety in some quarters, the widespread availability of seed and a soil highly conducive to its requirements could see this becoming the dominant variety in a few years time. However could well prove to be overly-susceptible to déjà vu.

Free Trade Agreement: Much has been promised for the widespread use of this variety, however early indications are that the use of copious amounts of bull manure will be the only way for it to succeed. Liable to fall flat on its face as the promoters of this variety have had no experience of cultivating this sort of crop for the past forty years.

General Election: While it has proven to be highly unpopular amongst those expected to adopt this variety, it has been launched onto the market despite widespread apathy. Unlikely to yield anything new at the end of its growing season.

Article 50: Despite being the first of the new wave of varieties to be launched onto the market, could yet be revoked.

Farage: Highly popular in some areas of the South, however likely to turn stomachs in Scotland. Despite having a big head, this variety only ever gained representational success in the European market where it proved disruptive and highly unpopular.

Johnson: Wild and untidy; unlikely to deliver as prone to failing to live up to promises. Requires well cultivated ground as often threatens to “die in a ditch” unless it gets its way. Requires to be sown alongside shelter belts of magic money trees to fulfil the financial pledges it is prone to making at the drop of a hat.

Corbyn : Disappointing variety which failed to capitalise on the huge number of opportunities handed to it on a plate by competing strains. Slightly weak-strawed, this cultivar tends to blow in the wind and could be prone to shedding. If elected could prove popular with distillers as likely to turn many people to drink.

Stop Press: In a last minute admission, our source revealed that, just like a politician’s election promise, all of the above details must be taken with a large pinch of salt.