November 15, 2017

European Union – 2017 sees average oilseed rape yields but with huge disparities across the region

In France and Belgium yields have been excellent. The UK saw mixed results, whilst Germany had disappointing yields and the Czech Republic experienced a fall. Over the whole of the EU there were middling yields of OSR in 2017, at 3.27 t/ha, but there were huge disparities between countries and even regions.

At EU level, the average expected yield of winter OSR in 2017, is 3.27 t/ha, according to Copa-Cogeca*. This will be very slightly above the 3.24 t/ha achieved on average over the last five years. It’s also higher than forecast in spring, thanks to good harvests in France, but is tempered by disappointing yields from the north-eastern part of the region, particulalry Germany.

France, Belgium and the UK

In France, OSR has been this year’s surprise winter crop and in Belgium, farmers were also generally satisfied with their results. Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech estimates the average yield to have been 4.5 t/ha, though there have been considerable differences between farms, all the way from 3 to 6 t/ha. In the United Kingdom, yields remain constant, ranging from 3.4 to 3.6 t/ha, just above the average for the previous five years of 3.4 t/ha. But here too, results have been uneven compared to the norm, as farm averages range from 2.3 to 5.2 t/ha. The poorest yields were recorded in light soils that had suffered from poor establishment, drought and even pigeon damage. The highest were from heavier soils in the east, the south and the Midlands.

Severe weather conditions

German farmers were disappointed with their OSR harvests, as results are lower than the spring forecasts. Indeed the German cooperatives association expects production to be down by around 6% compared to last year in proportion to the surface area. Unlike France, where surface areas had fallen slightly in 2017, Germany had kept the same surface area planted to OSR as last year.

In Poland, yields are also lower than expected due to harsh weather conditions, insect pressure, a cold May, a short flowering period and rains that led to heavy sclerotinia blight infestations.

North-eastern Europe, the Baltic States in particular, also suffered from this summer’s uncertain climate; OSR harvests were very late and affected by rain. In Sweden where OSR suffered from attacks by insects and diseases, average yield is likely to be around 3.5-3.6 t/ha, which is slightly lower than usual. With a surface area similar to last year’s, at 400,000, the Czech Republic forecast an average yield of 2.97 t/ha, also down from 2016, when it had achieved 3.45 t/ha.

*Copa: Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations in the European Union

Cogeca: the European Union’s General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives.