“Mild or even hot” autumn temperatures have left the French soft wheat crop vulnerable to a sudden frost, researchers said, even as official data showed rapid crop emergence.

Arvalis, the French crop research institute, said that the country’s hottest October for more than 40 years, with temperatures 3.3 Celsius above normal, “will obviously impact the growth and development of cereals”.

Emergence of seedlings in Europe’s top wheat producing country “will be accelerated”, and growth “rapid”, with crops crossing developmental stages at earlier-than-usual dates, and showing increased leaf size.

The concern is that this rapid development will leave crops vulnerable, should winter prove less benign that an autumn in which October witnessed “temperatures usually encountered in September”.

‘Scenario to be feared…’

“Cereals have not yet experienced the cool or even cold temperatures necessary for hardening against frost,” Arvalis said.

“The scenario to be feared would therefore be a sudden and significant drop in temperatures and the rapid onset of severe frosts.”

The institute also cautioned that dryness remaining in many areas could “affect the quality of emergence” of winter grain crops, while the mild temperatures may also have helped maintain populations of crop pests, in particular aphids and leafhoppers.

Quickest emergence since 2011

The comments came as FranceAgriMer, the official French ag bureau, reported emergence of soft wheat on 61% of area expected to be planted for the 2023 wheat harvest, ahead of the 40% figure a week before.

The number was also ahead of the 42% total a year ago, a figure which is also the five-year average, on GrainPriceNews calculations.

Indeed, it represents indeed the quickest pace of emergence since 2011, reflecting warm weather, and good progress on sowings.

Winter soft wheat plantings were 84% complete, up by 21 points week on week, FranceAgriMer said.tgober