The winter of 2019/20 is surprisingly mild in the Black Sea region. The condition of winter fields in Russia is excellent, to date, everything is in line in order to bring a record harvest. However, the lack of snow threatens to further reduce the already scarce soil moisture reserves, and also increases the risk of winter kill in case of frosts. Will the history of 2010 be repeated this year or will Russia again harvest a good crop?
WARM WINTER IN RUSSIA: GLOBAL WARMING OR NORMAL WEATHER CYCLES?
A very warm winter has been observed this year in Russia. No snow, and almost no frost. The usual average temperature in Moscow in December-January is around -6.8° C while this year it stubbornly did not fall below +0.6° C. The same extremely warm weather remains in other regions of the country, not forgetting the Southern Federal District.
Employees of the Russian Meteorological Center explain such anormal weather by the phenomenon of powerful zonal circulation with atmospheric masses transported from west to east. Warm air from the Atlantic comes to Russia, warming the territory from Kaliningrad to Yakutia. Its opponent, the cold Arctic anticyclone, is, on the contrary, weakened this year, and cannot penetrate into the territory of Russia. If the Arctic anticyclone from the Barents Sea does not break through in February-March, a similarly abnormally warm weather awaits the country in the rest of winter and even in spring, the phenomenon which has not happened for 130 years!
Such a snowless and warm winter suits long distance trucker drivers, but on the whole it brings more fears than positive aspects.
In the photo above and below – wheat fields near Krasnodar in January 2020. The condition of the crops is excellent, and could already promise a record harvest. But there are many factors alarming the market operators.
BACK TO 2010?
“A lot of snow – a lot of bread”, says an old Russian proverb. Indeed, the most worrying thing for producers of wheat regions in Russia are the low moisture reserves in the soil, which, moreover, will not be replenished with the melting of the snow this spring. According to analysts, in the southern regions, moisture reserves are close to the lowest levels over the past thirty years. Looking at the precipitation charts in Krasnodar and Stavropol regions, it becomes obvious that the situation can quickly turn critical. The producers will have every chance, or rather mischance, to repeat the disastrously dry 2010, when the lowest wheat crop in the recent history of the country was harvested. Moreover, according to local experienced operators, the drought in the Southern Federal District is repeated every 10-12 years.
Another threat is frost. Wheat did not hibernate, so a sudden drop in temperature could cause a winter kill of crops not protected by snow cover. According to experts, the optimal average temperature for wheat dormancy is considered to be from 0° to -7° C, depending on the region. Many wheat varieties of Russian selection can withstand significant negative temperatures (up to – 18-20° C), but subject to preliminary hardening and entering the dormant period. That is why, to dispel the fears of agronomists, an unusually European winter should also be followed by a warm spring. A cold spring is much more dangerous than a warm autumn; sometimes in Russia snow can lie in the fields for a long time and slow down the growth of crops.
In addition, warm winters contribute to the proliferation of insects and spread of plant diseases. Winter frosts are natural disinfectant; they also strengthen the protective properties of plants. Wheat crops come out of the warm winter weakened. It means that producers will need to use additional chemical protection against diseases and more fertilizers.
Thus, the weather will play a decisive role in the volume of the wheat production 2020. In the meantime, market operators are monitoring the crops conditions and weather forecasts in the main production regions of Russia and the producers are waiting for the precipitations.
To recall that, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, the winter crops area in Russia for the 2020 crop increased by + 3% to a record 18.2 million hectares. Analysts agree that it is too early to make production estimates and that the first concrete numbers can be announced only in two months, when the Agritel team will go on a traditional crop-tour in the Southern Federal District of Russia. In the meantime, the market can only wait for what nature will decide.
If you want to know more about Russian agriculture but also have a qualified insight in the production for wheat and other crops, do not hesitate to contact us!