Officials cut, again, their forecasts for this year’s European Union corn and sunflower yields citing “irreversibly lost” potential to hot weather and drought so severe that some farmers have been forced to abandon irrigation.

The European Commission’s Mars agrimeteorology bureau slsahed by 0.62 tonnes per hectare, to 6.63 tonnes per hectare, its forecast for the EU maize yield this year – a result which would be the lowest since 2015.

For EU sunflower seed, Mars cut its yield estimate by 0.12 tonnes per hectare to 2.06 tonnes per hectare, the second lowest since 2015.

The downgrades reflected “the exceptionally hot and/or dry weather conditions in large parts of Europe” which “continue to substantially reduce yield outlooks for EU summer crops”, the bureau said.

‘Irreversibly lost’

“Water and heat stress periods partly coincided with the sensitive flowering stage and grain filling,” a factor which “resulted in irreversibly lost yield potential”, Mars said.

The question of the extent of irreversible damage has become more of a conversation point with the return of precipitation to some parts of Europe at the weekend. Crops outside the GrainPriceNews office in the west of England were being rained on at the time of writing this article.

“Europe soil moisture improvements are most likely in the eastern countries while the west dries out for a while,” World Weather said.

‘Persistent drought’

Mars sliced a further 0.93 tonnes per hectare from its forecast for the corn yield in Romania, the EU’s top producer of the grain, reducing the figure to just 4.60 tonnes per hectare.

That would represent a result 23% below the trailing five-year average.

“Persistent drought further worsened summer crop yield expectations,” the bureau said, reporting that rainfall over the past month had been 30-50% below long-term-average levels” in most regions.

The sunflower yield estimate for Romania, which is the EU’s top grower of the oilseed too, was reduced by 0.22 tonnes per hectare to 2.15 tonnes per hectare, 18% below the five-year average.

‘Severely impacted’

For France – which on Friday reported its lowest official corn crop condition rating on records going back to 2011 – Mars cut its corn yield estimate by a further 0.80 tonnes per hectare to 8.10 tonnes per hectare.

“Extremely dry conditions have prevailed over the entire country since the beginning of July and cumulative rainfall in a large part of the country has not exceed 20mm since then, corresponding to the lowest level in our 30+ year database,” the bureau said.

“Summer crops have been severely impacted by these adverse conditions,” Mars said, highlighting that “maize [corn] and sunflowers were impacted during flowering, which led to irreversible damage”.

The French sunflower yield was pegged at 2.20 tonnes per hectare, down by 0.54 tonnes per hectare year on year, although in line with last month’s estimate.

‘Exceptionally low yield expectations’

For Hungary, another leading EU corn producer, the bureau cut its yield estimate for the grain by a further 0.52 tonnes per hectare to 5.00 tonnes per hectare – more than one-third below the five-year average result.

Reporting “exceptionally low yield expectations for all crops” in Hungary this year, Mars said that” extremely dry conditions have prevailed throughout the country since the beginning of July”, although adding that dryness had in fact lasted “since winter.

“Maize and sunflowers have already dried in at least two-thirds of the country,” the bureau said, viewing Hungary as one country where the dryness kicked in early enough to dent results for earlier-harvested crops, such as wheat, too.

“The winter crop harvest has been completed and field-based reports indicate exceptionally low yields due to the long-lasting dry conditions, whose impacts were underestimated in our previous forecasts.”

‘Irrigation abandoned’

Mars added that “the drought conditions and the peak of temperatures toward the end of July… affected the growth of summer crops and flower fertility” in other countries too including France, Germany and Italy

Indeed, in the likes of north west Italy, as well as central and southern Spain, “the very low water levels in reservoirs…  were insufficient to meet the water needs of crops and irrigation of some fields has been abandoned”.

Mars cut its forecast for Italy’s corn yield by 0.65 tonnes per hectare to 7.77 tonnes per hectare.

However, this remains well above a US Department of Agriculture estimate on Friday of 4.8m tonnes per hectare, “the lowest since 1972-73”.

The USDA reported that “Italy’s primary agricultural region, centred on the Po River Valley in the north, continues to be devastated by drought and low water levels”.