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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
According to the January 2020 issue of the JRC MARS Bulletin - Crop monitoring in Europe, the 1 December to 20 January period was warmer than usual throughout Europe. The most marked anomalies occurred in large parts of France and northern-central and eastern Europe, for which this period (1 December to 20 January) was one of the warmest in our records. In southern regions, December was very mild but January temperatures so far have been close to average. It is still too early to fully assess the impacts of the unusually mild winter conditions on crop yield potential. One positive effect of the mild first half of winter is that late-sown winter cereal crops had more time to establish. Moreover, there have so far been no significant occurrences of frost damage to winter crops in the EU. However, there are also negative effects. Primarily, frost tolerance (usually referred to as winter hardening) is weakly developed. Compared to an average year, the hardening of winter crops remains particularly poor in southern Sweden, Germany, Poland, the Baltic countries, Belarus, the north-western part of European Russia and western Ukraine. This means that in these regions, crops are particularly vulnerable to frost damage in the event of a cold air intrusion, although such an event is not expected within the current weather forecast period (until 31 January). Another drawback is that pest and disease pressure can be expected to be higher than usual following a mild winter. In addition, several parts of Europe experienced much drier-than-usual conditions: this includes the persistent lack of precipitation in southern Italy (in the most important regions for durum wheat), large parts of Germany, western Poland and western Czechia, large parts of the Balkan region, Bulgaria, Romania, central and western Ukraine, western Turkey and western Morocco. In several of these regions, dry conditions have prevailed since autumn. During winter, these conditions mainly affect soil moisture and ground water replenishment, rather than having a direct impact on crops. The overall balance of positive and negative effects will depend on how the winter season evolves.