Milder weather slashes winterkill threat across EU: MARS

23 Jan 2018 | Tom Houghton

The threat of winterkill damaging some of Europe's crops has receded as milder weather keeps frost at bay, the European Commission said in its monthly MARS crop monitoring bulletin released Monday.

Only limited frost damage has been seen to date and no further winterkill threat is expected for the EU crop until late January, the report said.

Delays to the onset of crop hardening have been discerned across almost all central, southern and western Europe, according to the monthly MARS crop monitoring bulletin.

Abnormally warm weather for the season – particularly in the Black Sea region – had led to fears of crops being left exposed with no insulating cover of snow, consequently increasing their vulnerability to any sudden cold spell before hardening occurred.

Hardening is a process by which cereals convert the starch to glucose, raising the freezing point of liquid in their cells and increasing the chance of surviving in cold weather.

With MARS forecasting above-average temperatures to continue through to the end of January for western and central Europe, there is no immediate threat to the health of the cereal crop.

Longer-term, MARS expects the continent’s temperature to be warmer than usual across from February-April, with above average rainfall predicted in central, eastern, and northern Europe.

While the EU crop looks to be in good health so far, “slight or moderate” frost damage is expected to have occurred in parts of central and southwestern Russia, as well as parts of Turkey.

When taken as a single entity, the European Union is the world’s largest wheat producer, having grown 151 million mt in 2017/18, according to the most recent USDA supply and demand report.

MARS, the crop monitoring and meteorological research unit of the European Commission, will deliver its first assessment of the health and yields of the 2018/19 marketing year crop on March 19.