When Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in 1952 at the age of 25, the British people were still subject to rationing and farmland values stood at £78 per acre, then equivalent to £1700 per acre in real terms. Now, 70 years on, the average value in Scotland is £5900 per acre, but we are facing another tumultuous time as a result of war in Europe.

As The Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, Savills rural research team has taken a look back at seven decades of change in the farming landscapes:


Wartime farming produced innovations in mechanisation and productivity, as well as medicines that contributed to a dramatic increase in the global population. Land was still frequently traded. In 1950, 675,000 acres were bought and sold in England, while 1952-1958 saw stable vacant possession prices of around £80 per acre, but our self-sufficiency was at its lowest with active free trade allowing a great deal of imports.


During the 1960s, land values rose steadily to just more than £200 per acre and thus began a 30-year period of steady value growth.


This rapid growth was dampened in 1973/74 when inflation topped 24% and interest rates reached 12%. The price of wheat rose four-fold during the 1970s, from £27 per tonne in 1970 to £105 per tonne in 1980. The UK joined the EU in 1973.


Wheat prices remained above £100 per tonne and average farmland values remained relatively stable. Milk quotas and Environmentally Sensitive Area schemes were introduced during this period.


Average values in Scotland climbed during the early 1990s, even though interest rates reached 15%. Values peaked at £1600 per acre in 1997, the year when The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee. Profitability increased on the back of high wheat prices.

During this period the property market was buoyant and prime country houses rose at around 10% per annum. Farming fortunes plummeted in the following years as wheat prices fell to below £60 per tonne.


In 2001, the industry was hit by foot-and-mouth disease and incomes continued on a downward trend. In 2003, non-farmer (lifestyle) buyers peaked at 45% of all buyers and this was the beginning of a weakening relationship between values and productivity as demand became more diverse.

In 2005, CAP Reforms introduced the Single Farm Payment and in 2008 we saw the 'credit crunch'. Wheat reached £180 per tonne and the recession caused by the credit crunch continued the trend of rising values as investors turned to farmland as a safe haven. And in 2009, BoE cut base interest rates to 0.5% – the lowest level for 135 years.


The Arab Spring in 2010 saw oil prices peak at more than $110 per barrel. Gold peaked at over $1660 per ounce. In 2012, wheat prices were more than £200 per tonne.

At 89,000 acres, the amount of land publicly marketed across England during 2012 was the smallest since records began in 1995. In Scotland, 39,700 acres were marketed, which was above average for the decade. Wheat prices fell to below £120 per tonne in 2015 resulting in the first signs of pressure on values for 13 years.

The nation’s decision to leave the EU in 2016 triggered the most significant changes in UK agricultural policy during the course of The Queen’s reign.


Market activity continued to reduce in response to uncertainty as the UK nations developed their future agricultural policies and post-Brexit trading relationships were agreed.

England announced an agricultural transition between 2021 and 2027 while Scotland and Wales favoured a period of stability before introducing new policies. Farmland supply fell to record lows totalling just 114,000 acres across GB in 2020 and 17,500 in Scotland during 2020. In 2021, market activity was higher, with 27,300 acres marketed in Scotland.

The diversity of buyers in the farmland market increased due to growing appreciation of the role that land can play in helping the UK meet its 2050 net zero greenhouse gas target through emissions reduction and carbon offsetting.

Supply chain impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine led to inflation and commodity prices climbing in the UK; ammonium nitrate fertiliser peaked at £1000 per tonne and wheat prices passed the £300 per tonne mark.

Looking forward

Emily Norton, head of Savills' rural research, commented: “The years to 2030 promise to be transformational for UK agriculture. The shift in policy emphasis to environmental outcomes also signals new money coming into the sector. The disruption of the agricultural transition is tempered by the huge enthusiasm of the current and future farmers who see the opportunity that lies ahead”.

“Luke French, from its rural agency business, added: “The Scottish farmland sector is undergoing a period of uncertainty and further change, however we predict land values will rise as competition increases for all of the services that land can provide.”