Key European grain-growing areas are suffering a “pronounced rain deficit”, official agrometeorologists said as they trimmed expectations for the bloc’s barley, wheat and rapeseed yields.

Rainfall is needed “to sustain a fair yield outlook”, after a period since March when “most parts of Europe” have suffered drier-than-usual conditions, the European Commission’s Mars bureau said.

“A pronounced rain deficit is observed in important parts” of countries including France, the European Union’s top grain producer, second-ranked Germany, Poland and key exporter Romania.

“The resulting gradual depletion of soil moisture reserves has negative effects on winter crops,” Mars said, although adding that “in most cases, negative impacts on crops have been minor and reversible, so far”.

The potential for more permanent damage increases as crops become more developed.

Year-on-year decline

Mars downgraded its estimate for the EU soft wheat yield this year by 0.06 tonnes per hectare to 5.89 tonnes per hectare, taking it further below last year’s result of 6.04 tonnes per hectare.

The spring barley forecast was cut by 0.13 tonnes per hectare to 4.18 tonnes per hectare, taking it below the 2021 figure, with the rapeseed figure trimmed to 3.17 tonnes per hectare, putting a small year-on-year decline on the cards for the oilseed too.

The revisions largely reflected reduced expectations for France, where ratings from FranceAgriMer, the country’s official ag bureau, have already revealed a sharp deterioration in crop condition amid record May temperatures.

‘Impacts already visible’

Mars pegged France’s soft wheat yield this year at 7.07 tonnes per hectare, a reduction of 0.09 tonnes per hectare month on month, taking the figure below last year’s result, and further beneath the five-year average of 7.26 tonnes per hectare.

“In most of the [French] arable land areas, the cumulated precipitation was 70% to 20% below the long-term average” since the start of April, the bureau said.

“The impacts of the dry conditions are already visible, especially in winter cereals, which are in the flowering stage, and to a lesser extent in rapeseed.”

Mars added that “some medium-term concerns were raised regarding the below-average groundwater tables, especially in the east of the country, due to the low level of precipitation since the beginning of the year”, a shortfall which may hamper attempts by some farmers to irrigate crops.

‘Pronounced rain deficit’

Germany too has suffered a “pronounced rain deficit” in eastern areas, where “the increased water demand, which goes along with the higher temperatures and the gain in biomass, is already difficult to satisfy.

“Soil moisture levels are depleting rapidly.”

And in Poland rains in the first half of this month were “significantly below-average”, a factor which, “in combination with warm temperatures, resulted in low soil moisture levels in most of the country”.

‘Faring well’

However, outside the EU, UK crops had ridden out dryness so far, thanks to rains at the start of April, and with some crops receiving early-May precipitation too.

“Winter and spring cereals are generally faring well,” Mars said, adding that “the rain deficit did not impact winter crops, even though soil moisture contents decreased to well below average levels”.

The forecast for the UK wheat yield was raised by 0.12 tonnes per hectare to 8.16 tonnes per hectare, taking it above the average result, and further above the 7.80 tonnes per hectare achieved last year.