Spring crops in Europe severely affected by extreme weather

(ORDO NEWS) — European summer crops have been hit hard by drought in recent months, impacting yields, according to the European Commission’s latest crop monitoring service (MARS) forecast.

“Exceptionally hot and dry weather conditions across much of Europe continue to significantly dampen yield prospects for summer crops in the EU,” the report said Tuesday (August 22).

August temperatures were 2-4°C above the 1991-2021 average in much of Europe, especially in the Iberian Peninsula, southwestern France, Italy and the western Balkans.

These regions are already suffering from long-term rainfall deficits, with France experiencing the lowest total rainfall in 30 years in July.

According to European forecasts, the yield of corn, intended mainly for animal feed, could fall by 16% this year compared to the five-year average (2017-2021). It is expected that the yield of sunflower seeds will decrease by 12%.

Back in July, the latest short-term agricultural forecast of the Commission already assumed a drop in cereal production due to adverse weather conditions.

Experts attribute the low yields mainly to a drought that hit crops planted in the spring at the flowering and grain stage, causing “irreversible” damage to plants, as well as restrictions on water use, which corn especially needs, and irrigation restrictions on some farms.

In France, corn production is down 11% from the five-year average and 19% from 2022.

“We have not yet reached the end of the season, the results are not set in stone. But we do not expect the situation to improve, most likely it will worsen.

Especially in the south-west of the country, where the situation is dramatic,” Anna Kettaneh, spokesperson for AGPM, told EURACTIV (General Association of Corn Growers).

The situation is not limited to corn. “All spring crops have been as affected by the drought as corn,” she said, adding that “it’s a disaster for sunflowers.”

Sunflower seed production is expected to fall by 7.9% from the five-year average and by 20% from 2021.

In France, irrigation restrictions imposed since mid-July have affected up to 70% of agricultural land.

As a result, some cornfields are being converted into forage fields, where the entire plant is shredded and fed to animals.

“What happens in bad years like this is that corn grain is used to make feed. In good years, it’s the other way around, we grow crops to make grain, which provides additional income for farmers,” Kettaneh said.

However, warm and dry conditions favorably affected winter crops such as wheat, barley and rapeseed. The MARS report notes a “slight improvement in yield forecasts” at the European level compared to the last forecast in July.

Philippe Josele, grain grower and chairman of the international relations committee of the French interprofessional association Intercéréales, said that for conventional wheat crops, “yields are not as negative as expected”, adding that the situation varies greatly across the country.

“Everything that is produced south of the Seine River was hit hard by the drought and the yield was low. While in the north of France they are good, even very good. Therefore, the yield per hectare can vary by 1-4 times,” he added. he.

“Overall, it’s almost an average year,” he said, reflecting on what’s happening across Europe.

However, the monitoring service indicated that in Latvia and Lithuania “a clear excess of precipitation […] had a negative impact on winter crops in the late stages of grain filling and maturation and may have delayed the start of harvest.”

According to the French Association of Maize Producers (AGPM), a true assessment of summer for corn plantings can only be made in the fall, after harvest.

The long-term weather forecast for September, October and November shows that “warmer-than-usual conditions are likely to prevail over most of Europe,” the report says.

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