Climate risks: European crop yields expected to be lower in Southern Europe

Unfavourable weather conditions in several parts of southern and south-central Europe have led to a slight downward revision of the overall yield forecasts for winter crops from the European Union.

According to the April issue of the JRC MARS Bulletin – Crop monitoring in Europe, weather conditions in most parts of western, northern, and north-central Europe were adequate for winter crop development, and allowed for the good progress of spring sowings and other field operations.

However, although intense rain in southern Spain and Portugal brought relief from the preceding drought, it arrived too late to fully restore yield potential and caused some physical damage to plants.

Precipitation in central Spain was insufficient to avoid a worsening of soil moisture conditions.

Continued drought conditions in northern, central, and south-western Italy negatively impacted winter crop growth and delayed summer crop sowing. Unfavourably dry conditions – so far with limited negative impacts on winter crops – are also present in Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and southern Ukraine.

As it is still early in the season, the crop yield forecasts for these regions are still based on historical trends, the EU said.

Much of Europe – extending from central Spain to the Baltic region – experienced exceptionally cold weather in early April. Temperatures on the coldest days were as low as -8°C in parts of central Spain. Blooming fruit trees were severely impacted in some regions.

However, it suggested that impacts on arable crops are likely to be very limited. The sensitive stages around the flowering of winter cereals had not yet been reached when the cold spell occurred, and yield potential of flowering rapeseed crops is only expected to be slightly reduced.

In south-eastern Italy and Turkey, crop growth and development lag behind due to persistently below-average temperatures.

Separately, dry, hot weather in France in the coming days after several months of little rainfall will cause irreversible damage to grain crops in the European Union’s largest grains producer, a technical institute said.

European wheat markets have rallied in recent days on concerns about dry weather in France and some other major producing countries at a time when the war in Ukraine has reduced grain supplies.

Between 1 Jan and 10 May France will have received about 30% less than the average precipitation of the past 20 years, making the soil sensitive to further dry weather, Jean-Charles Deswarte, agronomist at crop institute Arvalis, told Reuters.

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