Slow pace of hardening leaves European wheat vulnerable to frost


Another mild autumn leaves European wheat once again vulnerable to frost-kill, the European Commission said.

Mild weather so far this season means that there has been little hardening of winter wheat across the European Union and Easter Europe, leaving the crop vulnerable to cold weather.

And a shortage of snow increases the risk that a cold snap later this week will hit yields.  

The situation is similar to last year, when the European Commission also warned of the slow pace of hardening, but widespread frost damage failed to appear due to the mild winter.

Delayed hardening

Hardening is the biological process which winter-sown cereals go through in response to cooling temperatures, which allow them to survive freezing over the winter months.

But the warm weather has delayed that hardening so far this season.

"In a wide area of the North, including the Baltic and Black Sea areas, hardening is delayed as it only began in the first half of November and, in the second half of the month, a period of de-hardening occurred in most regions due to the significantly warmer-than-usual weather conditions."

Winter hardening is also delayed in southern Russia, and western and southern Ukraine, the European Commission said, though in other parts of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus the crop is fully hardened.

"The situation improved slightly in early December, but the hardening of winter cereals is considerably delayed," the Commission said.

Cold weather threat

"The current situation is delicate, since a cold air intrusion could cause considerable frost-kill damage in the areas characterised by no snow cover and low frost tolerance of winter crops," said the Commission.

 "Due to the absence of low temperatures, frost kill has been very limited so far," the Commission said.

But from December 21, a "significant" cold intrusion will bring harsh colt to the eastern half of Europe.

The Commission warned of "possible frost kill is forecast for the Baltic countries, eastern Poland, western Belarus, eastern Romania, Moldavia, some spots of Bulgaria as well as in western and southern Ukraine.


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