Heavy rains threaten wheat and rapeseed production

Heavy rain and saturated soil are threatening to reduce wheat and rapeseed production in western Europe this year with the most serious problems in Britain, crop analysts said.

The outlook in top producer France is also deteriorating.

“There are an awful lot of crops out there that are still under water, lots of patches of waterlogging and lots of very slow growing crops,” analyst Susan Twining of crop consultants ADAS said, referring to conditions in Britain, the third-largest wheat producer in the EU.

Analyst Strategie Grains lowered its outlook for soft wheat output in Britain and France by 1.4m tonnes.

“Farmers urgently need the rains to cease in the west EU countries so that the condition of the crops can improve and they can continue working in the fields,” Strategie Grains said.

Britain had its second-wettest year on record in 2012, disrupting both the harvest and subsequent planting of winter crops, and the rain has continued into 2013.

“There is still a lot to play for but you can’t help feeling that, because of the amount of land that is compromised either by poor soil structure or low plant populations, there will be some reduction in the potential yield,” Ms Twining said.

Forecasts indicate the weather in Britain may become drier in the next few days which may lead farmers to decide whether to invest more money in their winter crops by applying fertiliser and herbicides, or abandon them.

“I think the next couple of weeks is going to be the key decision time for some of the poorer crops for wheat, barley and oilseed rape,” Ms Twining said.

“For a lot of them the answer will be they are not very good but they will probably perform economically as well as any alternative,” she added.

In France, wet conditions were causing concern about crop losses and delays to spring planting in some areas, although the situation was generally much more satisfactory than rain-soaked Britain.

Rapeseed plants continued to be seen as most at risk of losses after crops endured both dry sowing conditions in late summer and damp growing weather in autumn and winter.

“At the moment the main cause of concern is rapeseed plants that are in waterlogged fields and suffering from root asphyxiation,” French oilseed institute Cetiom said told clients.

In Germany, the EU’s second-largest wheat producer, the outlook is more promising.

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