In many parts of Europe and particularly key arable regions the annual hardening to winter crops has not occurred.
Hardening is a bio-physiological process of winter cereals that occurs when cellular starch is transformed into glucose to increase the freezing point of cellular liquid, thereby developing low-temperature tolerance in the plant.
In the European Commission’s latest assessment of crop conditions across the continent, winter crops are practically not hardened at all in western and southern Europe, Germany, Romania, southern Poland, and western Ukraine.
It says winter crops are in the partial or advanced hardening stages in northern Poland, Scandinavia, the Baltic States, central Ukraine, Slovakia and some regions of Hungary and the Czech Republic; whereas crops have reached full or almost full hardening in Belarus, eastern Ukraine and Russia (except in the most southern areas).
The Commission says that during the past winter, the majority of frost-kill events occurred in late December and early January.
Western and southern Ukraine, Moldavia, south-western Belarus and some regions of southern Russia appear to have been moderately affected.
Only slight/minor frost-kill damages are probable in western Poland, eastern Bulgaria, eastern Romania and the Baltic countries. No additional significant damage is expected to have occurred since mid-January.
However, the lack of hardening in most of Europe indicates that winter crops remain vulnerable, on the basis of the medium-range weather forecast, no further frost-kill damage is expected until the end of February.
Winter crops had a fantastic start last autumn, but a series of winter storms have caused significant losses, according to Teagasc’s latest crop update.
It says an estimated 500ha has been lost from salt burn along the south coast while many fields have bare patches as a result of water-logging and reduced plant counts compared to 2015.
Meanwhile, Teagasc says the current estimates for 2016 winter crops are
- Wheat (60,000 ha)
- Barley (75,000 ha)
- Oats (12,000 ha)
- Rape (7,000 ha).