Weather in the Black Sea region's winter wheat country is showing some signs of being unfavorable as the crop moves into its jointing stage -- the first stage of forming the new wheat heads for harvest. Precipitation during April was 17% below normal. For the year so far, precipitation is about 12% above normal.
On balance, that doesn't sound too bad. However, this past week has seen a blistering round of temperatures for the Black Sea region. Values soared to the mid-80s Fahrenheit -- an astonishing 20 degrees ABOVE normal. This region is about the same latitude as the Canadian Prairies -- so temperatures into the range of 80 to 85 F at this point in springtime are way out there in terms of being above normal.
That heat is starting to have some effect on crops in a stressful way. Comments from an agronomist/crop consultant based in Ukraine on May 4 indicated that the flag leaves on wheat plants -- the very beginning stage of starting the reproductive cycle -- were rolling sideways, in a biological effort by the plant to conserve soil moisture. That's an indication of plant stress.
This development will be a closely-monitored item from now on. The grain market -- particularly wheat -- has been "Black Sea this" and "Black Sea that" for several years. Russia alone, in wheat production, has jumped from just under 38 million metric tons in 2012 to almost 85 mmt in 2017, an increase of 224% -- more than double the 2012 output. There is a lot of wheat in the world grain pile right now, but any whittling away of that supply could be looked upon as an important development by the grain market.
Temperatures remain very high in the forecast through the May 8-10 time frame also, running about 5 to 12 degrees F above normal. There is very little rain expected either, mostly less than one-quarter inch, especially in the South Russia region along with Ukraine. So, the heat and dryness issue seems to be setting in for a notable spell in early May.
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