Drought affected western Europe last summer and autumn, with France feeling the brunt of the impact. Late autumn and winter rainfall came along to fix the moisture deficits — at least for a while, but the region is quickly drying out once again, and that is raising concern for some of the small grain crop once again. In the meantime, portions of Canada’s Prairies never did get the 2016 harvest completed, and wet weather this spring already has had a negative impact on the region raising concern that spring cereal planting will be less than usual.
Rainfall in western Europe during the first half of April was well below average with many areas reporting less than 25% of normal rainfall and others reporting 25% to 50% of normal. The driest areas are similar to those noted last summer and autumn, including France, western Germany and parts of Italy. Portugal and Spain, as well as the United Kingdom, also have been included in the drier bias recently. However, daily air temperatures are still mild to cool enough to minimize evaporation, and that has helped to conserve soil moisture.
World Weather, Inc. conducted a study during last summer’s prolonged dryness and looked at similar conditions that have occurred periodically in Europe in recent years. The study determined that the trend in Europe is not some new trend that has never been seen before, but rather the return of a dry pattern that has been noted to occur periodically over the past few hundred years. The return of dryness this spring raises concern that another year of dryness might harm crop production throughout the west.
Much of the dryness potential will be determined by the fate of El Niño that may or may not evolve later this year. El Niño would likely help make much of Europe and western Asia find timely rainfall and have a successful production year. Without the El Niño event, there is a suggested change in the atmosphere that actually shifts the drier biased conditions from western Europe into the western Commonwealth of Independent States and portions of eastern Europe. This eastward shift in the drier biased conditions may be visible over the next few weeks, but for the next week to 10 days western Europe is likely to continue trending drier than usual.
The transitional period for European weather should occur in May and June, and all eyes will be on the region since today’s soil moisture already is beginning to ebb below optimum levels. Some crop stress is not too far away if the trend lasts much longer, and seasonal warming becomes more significant.
In the meantime, Russia’s eastern New Lands are still trying to shrug off this year’s remaining snow cover. Abundant snow during the winter coupled with plenty of cold air resulted in deep snow cover and now a slow snowmelt season.
The possible delay in spring planting in the eastern Russia New Lands is occurring simultaneously with another spring wheat production area problem in Canada. The Canadian Prairies had a tough time getting the 2016 crops harvested last autumn. The problem was frequent precipitation over saturated or nearly saturated soil. A couple of significant snow events followed by cold temperatures resulted in many crops being left in the fields over winter.
There was much hope during the early spring that the remaining 2016 crops would get harvested favorably due to a bias of normal to below normal precipitation and near to above average temperatures. Conditions were fine in March and in early April, but a storm system in the second week of April brought substantial precipitation to western and northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan. The wetter bias quickly saturated the soil once again and at a time when conditions were becoming more favorable for aggressive harvesting of the 2016 crops.
Following the rain and snow event there has been little to no fieldwork recently, and many areas in western and northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan are considered too wet with areas of standing water common. Worry over getting the old crop off and the new crop planted is now rising sharply.
Some of the wettest areas in the Prairies will need three weeks of sunny, warm and dry conditions before the ground firms enough to get harvesting under way. The harvest might require a couple of additional weeks without precipitation, and suddenly the month of May is nearly over. Planting some crops in late May and June might not bode well for production, especially if planting is later in June. All of this assumes that it won’t rain during the next several weeks — and that is not likely.
The forecast through the end of April continues to bring frequent bouts of rain across parts of the Prairies. Resulting precipitation is not expected to be heavy, but frequent cloudiness, occasional showers of light intensity and saturated soil will not bode well for getting into the fields as aggressively as needed.
Not all hope has been lost in the Prairies this spring. Manitoba’s feared serious flood resulting from deep snow cover and rapid snow melt failed to come to full fruition. Drier biased conditions recently have helped to bring the crop region closer to starting some planting, but more dry weather is needed.
Europe’s problems may straighten out soon, but lower confidence is seen for parts of the Prairies to move into a dry pattern. In addition to these two issues, there is some growing concern that Quebec and parts of Ontario’s wheat, corn and soybean country might also trend wetter biased this spring, and that might not bode well for any of those crops.
In contrast to these areas of concern in southeastern Canada, most of the U.S. winter crop is in favorable condition, although there is rising concern over the potential for some wet weather disease to spread northward from Texas into the central Plains and Midwest. The weather outlook will promote a warm and moist pattern for a while.
Wheat and other small grains in North Africa, China and India are in mostly good condition with little change likely for a while. There was some concern over southern wheat areas in China becoming too wet, but the situation is improving with warmer temperatures and less rain now.
The next area to watch will be Australia since its planting season normally gets under way now and lasts through June. The nation is expecting a good planting season, but growing talk about El Niño prospects for later this year raises some concern over production potential. El Niño and Australia wheat production do not get along very well. Production cuts usually occur in El Niño years. World Weather, Inc. is not convinced that El Niño will kick in completely and certainly is not convinced that the event will follow tradition of other El Niño events in the past.
The bottom line remains one of interest for small grain production areas around the world. No critical production issues have evolved, but there is plenty of reason to be cognizant of possible production issues later in the year.