The area of UK wheat planting is expected to fall slightly in 2018.

The wheat area has been forecast to fall 2% to 1.75Mha for 2018, down from 1.79Mha this year, according to data from this year’s Early-Bird Survey (EBS).

Carried out each autumn by business consultancy The Andersons Centre with the help of agronomists, the survey is based on measuring cropping change from the harvest just completed to the current growing season and plans for spring drilling.

Autumn drilling conditions have been difficult in many parts of the UK, according to the survey, slowing winter plantings and meaning winter drilling has continued later than usual.

Researchers found the wheat area has declined for the fourth consecutive year, and is expected to be 3% below the last five-year average.

“While it is curious that this is the fourth consecutive decline, looking at the long-term picture the wheat area is not out of range – there are several years when it has been lower,” said The Andersons Centre partner Graham Redman.

Other findings include a 9% decline in winter barley, while the area of spring barley is expected to be up 3%. Researchers also anticipate a 9% increase in oilseed rape area.

Oats plantings have been rising over recent years but the area is expected to drop slightly - by less than 1%  - to 160,000ha.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board recently reported that wheat exports were slow during the first quarter of 2017/18, with 147.2Kt shipped overseas from July to the end of September - only 22% of the UK wheat exports in the first quarter of 2016/17.