LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's wheat area is expected to expand to 1.74 million hectares for this year's harvest, up 26% from 2020, according to a survey issued by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) on Thursday.
The increase was largely at the expense of spring barley, which was expected to be 28% lower at 769,000 hectares.
The AHDB noted the sowing conditions were more favourable this season during the key autumn planting window for wheat. The previous season's adverse weather forced many farmers to switch to spring-sown crops, of which barley is the most important.
Winter barley area was seen 15% higher, year-on-year, at 350,000 hectares. Rapeseed area was forecast at 322,000 hectares, down 15% year-on-year.
"Crop conditions last year ... were not ideal, which led to significant pest pressure, and yields were down, which meant growers turned away from planting this break crop," the AHDB said. The largest declines in area were where cabbage stem flea beetles were most prevalent, it added.
Flea beetles have posed a growing threat to British rapeseed in recent years as a result of restrictions imposed on the use of insecticides known as neonicotinoids to protect bees.
(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Andrew Heavens)