The European Union’s soft wheat yield will rise to an above-average level, despite “several remarkable weather events”, official researchers said, foreseeing improvements for countries including France and Romania.
The EU’s official agri-meteorology bureau, Mars, in its first forecast for the bloc’s soft wheat yield this year pegged it at 5.89 tonnes per hectare – a rise of 0.19 tonnes per hectare year on year, and 0.2 tonnes per hectare above the five-year average.
The forecast was a little ahead too of a 5.82 tonnes-per-hectare forecast released on Friday from Coceral, the Brussels-based industry group, a small downgrade from its December estimate.
“After a winter full of sharply contrasting events, winter crops started spring in fairly good condition,” Mars said, adding too that expectations of above-average EU grain results this harvest reflected comparison with “the meagre yields in recent years”.
‘Full of contrast’
The bureau noted that “recent weather conditions in Europe have been full of contrast”, with temperatures in some areas rebounding from minus 15 degrees Celsius to plus 15 degrees after a cold snap ended last month.
“Following the cold spells… large parts of western and northern Europe experienced exceptionally warm temperatures,” Mars said, although added that these “contributed to rapid snow melt and the restart of growth and development after winter dormancy”.
While February and early March had been “very dry” too in “large parts of Sweden, Denmark, and the Baltic countries”, with precipitation levels 80% below the long-term average, this had had “no negative impacts on winter crops, which in these regions had been covered by snow”.
‘Low disease pressure’
In France, the bloc’s top grower, winter crops had made a “good start” to the season, Mars said, noting ample winter rains and adding that “the initially cold and then dry month of February contributed to maintaining a low disease pressure”.
France was expected to see a soft wheat yield this year of 7.15 tonnes per hectare, up from 6.82 tonnes per hectare last year, and above the five-year average of 6.82 tonnes per hectare.
France’s official FranceAgriMer bureau on Friday reported 88% of the country’s soft wheat crop as being in “good” or “excellent” condition, up from 63% a year ago.
For second-ranked Germany, the bureau forecast a yield of 7.88 tonnes per hectare, in line with last year, although 0.42 tonnes per hectare above the average level.
“Temperature sums for the three winter months are above average, mostly due to very mild days towards the end of February,” Mars said, noting too that heavy snows had protected crops from last month’s freeze.
‘Pressure of fungal diseases’
For Poland, the EU’s third-ranked wheat producer, the yield was forecast easing a little from last year to 4.81 tonnes per hectare, with Mars cautioning that a “warm and wet autumn increased the pressure of fungal diseases”.
However, Romanian farmers were forecast enjoying a recovery to 4.12 tonnes per hectare in yields, from the 2.99 tonnes per hectare achieved last year.
“Winter crops are generally in good condition, with soil and water content currently still favourable for spring re-growth,” Mars said, although warning that dry and warm conditions “have started to reduce the moisture in the upper soil layer”.
‘Several negative impacts’
For durum and winter barley, Mars forecast yield growth this year too, by 0.13 tonnes per hectare to 3.60 tonnes per hectare and 0.50 tonnes per hectare respectively.
Again, France was seen as a big contributor to improvements in both results, with Romania seen as reporting, at 4.35 tonnes per hectare, a 64% jump in winter barley yields this year.
And France was seen helping a 0.14-tonnes-per-hectare gain in 3.26 tonnes per hectare in the EU rapeseed result this year, despite the country’s crop having “been affected by several negative impacts making a record yield unlikely”.
This setbacks comprised “dry conditions at sowing and autumn, leaves slightly impacted by frost in February, and the mild temperatures observed since mid-February are currently favouring a high weevil pressure”.
Mars also forecast an improvement of 0.36 tonnes per hectare to 4.24 tonnes per hectare in the forecast for Ukraine’s wheat yield this year, citing “favourable conditions for winter crops”.
While the country recorded temperatures of minus 20 Celsius in January, “negative impacts of the cold temperatures on winter crops have been very limited, and mostly confined to the southern oblasts, where crops were not covered by snow”.
It added that “the current mild temperatures are beneficial for winter crops to resume growth and a few spring cereal sowings have started in the south”.