Cereals for a change

Dutch farmers have been growing more cereals in recent years. Some 200 thousand hectares are used to grow cereal crops in the Znetherlands, about the quivalent of the are of the province of Limburg and the same as the area of land used to grow fodder maize. The exception of 1999, the area used for cereals has been expanding since 1993.

Crop rotation

Specilaised arable farms devote roughly a third of their farm land cereals, mostly winter wheat or summer barley. The main cultivation centres for cereals are the areas with sea clay soils. For most farms, ceraela are a fixed part of crop rotation schemes. Cropes are alternated to prevent disease and exhaustion of the soil. In addition to potatoes and beet, they also grow cereals for want of sustainable arable alternatives.

Area of cereals in the Netherlands

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Less winter wheat

Forty per cent of grain fields are in the provinces of Groningen and Zeeland. The cereal crop for 2001 is good, with a yield of 7,700 kg per hectare. This is a 1% increase on last year. All types of cereals had good average yields this year.

The areas planted with winter cereals and summer cereals fluctuate because of, among other things, variable conditions during sowing. The area of winter wheat fell by 16% to just over 100 thousand hectares in 2001. Of all cereals, winter wheat has the highest yield (only Dutch). Each hectare producing an average 8,700 kg of grain. The total cereal crop this year is estimated to be nearly 1.6 billion kilos, nearly 56% of which is winter wheat.

Barley more popular

There has been a remarkable increas in the area of land used to grow summer barley, mainly as a basic ingredient for beer breweries. The area of summer barley has never been as large as it is now. In the last five years this area has increased by a susbtantial 90%. In the northeast of the country the area has been exaning strongly since 1993. Nearly half of the 62,000 hectare of summer barley are situated in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. In the provinces of Friesland, Drenthe and Overijssel summer barley is now the maing cereal grown. The yield has been high this year: 6,500 kg per. The total crop of summer barley is one and a half times last year’s, at 400 million kg.

Regional development in area of summer barley

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Until the second half of the last century, rye was the most popular cereal crop in the Netherlands, accounting for 200 thousand hectares of arable land. Today less than 4,000 hectare are used to grow rye. Oats, too, used to be popular, Until 1969 oats were grown on 150 thousand hectares of land. The 2001 agricultural census revealed that now only just over 2,500 hectares of land are used for oats. Triticale, a cross between wehat and rye, accounted for 5,000 hectares of land in 2001.

Folkert van der Werf