Despite bad weather, cereal yields up

 THE VIEW FROM EUROPE: This year total cereal production in the Europe is forecast to be well above 2012 levels and above the average of the past five years. This agricultural year has so far been marked by an unusually prolonged winter for western and central Europe and heavy rainfall in May and June. However, the impact of poor weather on crops in some areas of the EU has been offset in other areas; for example, the Iberian Peninsula is expecting an excellent season. This forecast, published by the European Commission this week, is based on analyses by the Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), using an advanced crop yield forecasting system.

After an average winter, spring (March – May) was colder-than-usual in western and central Europe, leading to a prolonged winter dormancy period. In fact, March was one of the coldest months on record. As a consequence, a significantly delayed start to the spring season was observed in most of Europe, with the exception of the Mediterranean regions and around the Black Sea, where warmer than average conditions were recorded.

During spring, most of Europe experienced heavy rain; it was the wettest spring on record in northern Italy, southern France and Spain. Conditions in Spain were especially favourable, leading to high yield expectations. From mid-April onwards mild weather triggered a vegetation boost in most parts of western and central Europe, which compensated for the previous delay and led to the positive yield prospects.

Towards the end of May / beginning of June, an exceptionally wet period over central Europe led to overly saturated soils and flooding, mainly in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and, to a smaller extent, in Poland. In contrast, spring brought a shortage of rain to the United Kingdom, northern France, the Benelux, the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Balkan region, and the surrounding areas of the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean regions, where the crop cycle is also advanced due to the warm weather.

The forecast published by the European Commission provides yield estimates for the main crops throughout the EU and identifies the areas most affected by stress conditions.

The yield forecast for cereals (wheat, barley, maize, other cereals) is 5.2 tonnes per hectare across the EU, clearly above last year (by more than 5 per cent) and above the five-year average The total area used in the EU for cereals in 2013 is slightly higher (+1.3 per cent) compared to 2012.

For individual crops across Europe compared to last year (updated with latest data), the latest yield forecasts show the following trends:

Cereals:

  • soft wheat: 5.5 t/ha (+2.1%)
  • durum wheat: 3.3 t/ha (+6.4%)
  • barley: 4.7 t/ha (+6.3%)
  • grain maize: 7.1 t/ha (+16.3%)Oilseeds and tuber crops:
  • rape seed: 3.0 t/ha (-4.1%)
  • sunflower: 1.9 t/ha (+14.0%)
  • potato: 30.1 t/ha (+1%)
  • sugar beet: 65.65 t/ha (+0.2%)

Soft wheat yield as a total is currently forecast to be above last year’s. Forecasts for France as the biggest producer show lower yields compared to last year, whereas higher yield levels are foreseen in Spain, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Barley at EU level is pushed above last year’s values by the excellent outlook for Spain, Romania and Bulgaria. Spain, which accounts for one quarter of spring barley production, is forecast to have a yield 40 per cent above the five-year average and is experiencing an excellent season with record-high yields.

Grain maize is forecast to have a yield clearly above last year’s yield, but it should be noted that this is a forecast at an early stage of the season for maize. Wet conditions have delayed or hampered sowing in two maize growing regions; Aquitaine (France) and Lombardy (Italy).

Report from the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre 

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