The productivity and innovation shown by hard-working UK farmers has been praised by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss as new figures out today show the UK enjoyed some of its biggest harvest in almost 20 years.
The barley harvest reached almost 7.3 million tonnes - the largest UK barley crop since 1997 – with winter and spring barley up 7.5% and 3.5% respectively.
For the first time ever wheat grown in the UK has exceeded 16 million tonnes two years running (2014 and 2015).
UK farmers grew nearly 3% more wheat on their land compared to 2014, up from 8.6 to 8.8 tonnes per hectare.
Overall, the UK’s cereal harvest this year stands at a mighty 24.5m tonnes, rivalling that in 2014 and making these last two years the decade’s best.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “We have some of the world’s best farmers - it’s fantastic to see their hard work and expertise rewarded with a bumper harvest of crops that will be heading to our flour mills and distillers to produce some of our favourite foods, from bread and beer to breakfast cereals. It’s a fitting celebration of the work done over the last year by those in the food and farming industry - worth over £100billion a year.
“From using GPS to increase planting precision, to introducing new water-efficient crop varieties, our innovative farmers are embracing technology to unleash their full potential. Through our Food and Farming Plan we will set out our approach to help our farmers better harness data and technology to grow more and sell more British food, creating jobs and investment in this vital industry.”
The use of precision farming methods has grown in the last two decades, helping farmers to increase production and improve crop quality. For example, using GPS on farm vehicles when applying treatments to a field helps the driver steer accurately and reduces overlap when treating the field in parallel strips, saving 6-10% of inputs, fuel and time. The percentage of farms applying this method rose from 14% in 2009 to 22% in 2012. Through the Agri-Tech Strategy, the government is investing £160 million to help develop new farming-related technologies and translate agricultural research into practical applications.
Thanks to high production figures, the UK’s volume of exports of cereals rose by 74.5% between 2013 and 2014, adding to a long list of export successes for the UK. Food and drink exports have doubled in the last decade, worth nearly £19 billion last year.
Eastern England lands the prize for the English region producing the greatest amount of this year’s wheat crop, with 4,170 thousand tonnes.
Yorkshire and the Humber leads the way as the biggest regional producer of winter barley, recording 730,000 tonnes, while the Southwest region has been identified as producing the largest amount of spring barley.
The Southwest and the East Midlands are named as the top-producing regions of oats and oilseed rape respectively.