While favourable drilling conditions and strong prices have supported an increase in winter cropping but steeply rising input costs may have limited further rises, according to AHDB’s Early Bird Survey.

The intended UK wheat area for 2022 is forecast up 1.3% year-on-year, to 1.81m ha, higher than the 10-year average and back in line with the 2019 area. While the winter oilseed rape area is set to increase for the first time since 2018, by 12.9%, this is not as much as anticipated.

AHDB analyst, Megan Hesketh, said: “With forward prices for rapeseed attractive and climbing all season, many might have been expecting a larger area rebound. But at the timing of cropping decisions, high input prices and the persistent issue of cabbage stem flea beetle may be capping gains in UK area grown.”

The estimated 2022 winter barley area is also up 2.8% to 415,000 ha, higher than both the five-year and 10-year average.

Spring barley intentions are expected to be back 7.7% year-on-year, to 688,000 ha, the lowest area since 2016 if realised – but this could change should prices remain strong and inputs maintain their meteoric rise.

Oat cropping intentions are set to fall 5% for 2022, to 189,000 ha, or just above the five-year average. “But with oats holding a sizeable discount to other cereals this season, a move towards other cropping might not be surprising,” she added.

In terms of alternative break crops, other oilseeds are expected to decline 6.7% on the year, pulses are down 5.1% to 235,000 ha, which is back to 2020 levels. “This change is likely down to an extension of cereal rotations, with pulses’ yields still considered variable year-on-year. Seed availability will also be a factor,” pointed out Ms Hesketh.

Forecast arable fallow area for 2022 is up by 15%, to 306,000 ha. This could be linked to the move in agricultural policy from direct payments, with less productive land potentially earmarked for environmental schemes. Again, rising input costs may also be a factor.