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Crop yield forecasts further reduced due to exceptional weather conditions

Non-irrigated maize crops in the most affected regions started to wilt before significant cob development.
©EU, author: Bettina Baruth
Aug 27 2018

According to the August issue of the JRC MARS Crop monitoring in Europe Bulletin (JRC MARS Bulletin Vol 26 No 08), which was published today, yield forecasts for cereals at the EU level were revised downwards for the fourth month in a row. Overall, the yield forecast for grain maize is still above the five-year average due to good performance in south-eastern Europe.

The downward revision of the yield forecasts of winter and spring cereals (soft wheat -2.1%, spring barley -1.5%, rye -3.2% and triticale -1.5%) was mainly due to continued exceptionally warm and/or dry weather conditions in northern and central Europe.

At EU level, the current yield forecasts are below the 5-year average for soft wheat (-4.5%), spring barley (-4.3%) and rye (-14%).

The forecasts for durum wheat, winter barley and rapeseed underwent only minor adjustments, as harvesting of these crops had mostly been finished by the end of the previous review period.

The yield forecast for grain maize was revised slightly downwards, but remains above the 5-year average overall. Sharp downward revisions in central Europe as well as in France were counterbalanced by strong upward revisions in south-eastern Europe, where weather conditions were particularly favourable, especially in Romania and Bulgaria.

For sugar beet and potatoes, which are less grown in south-eastern Europe, the balance was distinctly negative (-5.2% and -6.6% respectively). For both crops, the yield forecast at EU level is currently below the 5-year average. The forecast for green maize (i.e. fodder maize), was even more strongly reduced, to 10% below the 5-year average.

In contrast, the forecast for sunflower crops is well above the 5-year average. Pasture productivity – as inferred from remote sensing indicators – was at its lowest level since the start of our observations (in 1999) in large parts of central and northern Europe as well as in north-eastern France. Pasture productivity was above average in Spain, southern and western France, Italy, Austria, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Warmer-than-usual weather conditions

Most of Europe experienced continued warmer-than-usual weather conditions during the period reviewed (1 July to 20 August), with daily mean temperatures 0.5 °C to 4 °C above average. France, the Benelux region, Germany, the southern UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia sustained the highest temperature anomalies (greater than 2 °C).

Drought conditions continued in the southern UK, the Benelux countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, western Poland and the Czech Republic, until (or beyond) the harvest of winter and spring crops. This shortened the growing season, which led to a further decrease in yield expectations for summer crops in these regions (mainly green maize, grain maize, sugar beet and potatoes).

In the northern UK and Ireland, temperatures and rain deficit were less critical but still affected the grain filling of spring crops. Similar conditions occurred in Finland and the Baltic countries, where, after a period of prolonged rain deficit, high temperatures led to a shortening of the grain filling of both winter and spring crops. Hot and dry conditions also affected summer crops in eastern Hungary.

Spain, France, and central and northern Italy experienced a heatwave during the last ten days of July and the first ten days of August. These conditions affected summer crops in northern France, especially non-irrigated crops.

Heavy rains in southern Italy, Tunisia, and parts of the Balkan region, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Belarus led to a distinct precipitation surplus, but this had no significant negative impact on crops at national levels.

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