Too little rain, or too much, dogs sowings in EU, North Africa, Russia

24.10.2017

Extremes of too much rain, or too little, are delaying winter grain sowings in Europe, parts of the former Soviet Union and North Africa – although with central areas enjoying something of a "favourable" Goldilocks scenario.

Mars, the European Commission's official agri-meteorological bureau, cautioned of "excessive precipitation" delaying sowings of winter grains, for harvest next summer, in northern parts of the European Union.

"In large parts of northern Europe, the sowing of winter crops, already delayed by the late harvesting, was further hampered by excessively wet conditions" over the past month, Mars said, noting planting delays in the likes of Denmark, Ireland and the UK, but particularly in the Baltic states.

In the Baltics - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, a region noted for exports of higher quality wheat – "it might be difficult to complete the [sowing] campaign in the coming weeks if wet conditions continue and temperatures decrease". Mars said.

"Heavy rains since September 1 have brought cumulative rainfall to more than 90 mm [3.5 inches] above the long-term average.

"The waterlogged soils were almost inaccessible and the frequent rains hampered fieldwork."

'Sowing is already delayed'

However, in much of southern Europe, down into north Africa, too little rain is ringing alarm bells.

In Spain and Portugal, "drought continues", Mars said, noting "exceptionally dry" conditions which saw "no significant rainfall registered in September and the first half of October", while temperatures "substantially" exceeded average levels.

"The current dry conditions may delay the sowing of winter crops, particularly in Castilla y Leуn," a major grain growing area in Spain, where planting "usually starts by mid-October.

"Winter cereal sowing is already delayed in Morocco and Algeria, where rainfall in September and October was also very low," the bureau said.

Crop fortunes in North Africa, and the Middle East, are closely watched by grain investors thanks to the regions' large wheat import needs.

'Retarded growth and crop development'

Mars noted too that "a significant rain deficit also exists in southern France, western Italy and Greece, where sowing activities usually start in November".

Furthermore, rains had proved short in eastern and southern Ukraine, and in parts of southern Russia where "in several regions, topsoil moisture levels are below optimal for adequate germination and early crop growth".

By contrast, in central Russia, including the black earth region, excessive rain has delayed plantings, with Mars also highlighting that "late sowing can result in retarded growth and crop development of winter wheat before the dormancy period, and lead to increased risk of frost damage from harsh winter conditions".

'Earlier than usual'

However, conditions in EU areas between the damp north and arid south were "favourable" for seedings, the bureau said, noting that sowing in Poland, Slovakia and much of Germany "has made good progress and is nearly complete".

In France, the EU's top grain and rapeseed grower, seedings of the oilseed, which has an earlier sowings window than wheat, "occurred earlier than usual and without encountering major difficulties".

Still, in some other countries, rapeseed in some areas has "not been sown in time", and the unseeded area will be transferred to other crops.


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