Ag Weather Forum

Soggy Spring Threatens France's Wheat Crop

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Saturated soils in wheat-growing areas of France, along with most of Western Europe, are indicators of unfavorably wet conditions for the French wheat crop, leading to the potential for lower 2024 production. (USDA/WMO graphic)

Persistent wet weather, compounded by wild temperature swings, have wheat growers in France looking at the worst conditions in the last four years.

Australia-based market analysis firm Lachstock Consulting noted in a report May 6 that "FranceAgriMer reported that as of 29 April, the 2024-25 common wheat crop was rated 63% good/excellent (64% previous week, 93% previous year), durum 66% (67%, 88%), winter barley 66% (66%, 91%), and spring barley 74% (73%, 94%)."

The good-to-excellent wheat rating of 63% is almost one-third less than last year. FranceAgriMer also pegs the spring barley crop at its lowest rating over the past 10 years, according to Russia crop news service Zol.

Heavy precipitation has been a notable feature for this edition of the French wheat crop. Acreage seeded in the fall of 2023 was lower than expected because of pesky rain causing fieldwork delays. Winter was wet as well.

"Boreal winter 2023-24 saw above-average precipitation and soil moisture in a band from southwestern Europe to the Caucasus and southwestern Russia, mostly reflecting the heavy rainfall brought by low-pressure systems throughout the season," noted the European climate service Copernicus in a summary bulletin.

Soil moisture analysis by USDA Foreign Ag Service, based on data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), shows most crop areas in France -- and for that matter Western Europe generally -- are saturated as of early May.

The wet weather issue and adverse impact on wheat may be compounded by a damaging freeze that covered most of Europe during the last full week of April. Details from the USDA weekly weather and crop bulletin April 30 are stark:

"Temperatures reached as low as -8 degrees Celsius (17.6 Fahrenheit) in eastern Germany, western Poland and the western Czech Republic ... Following record-shattering warmth which hastened winter crops into reproduction two to four weeks ahead of average, an ensuing and very untimely hard freeze impacted many primary growing areas ... The first round of spotty freezes arrived on or about April 19 but intensified and expanded on April 21 before finally relenting on April 28. The freeze coincided with winter grains and oilseeds in the reproductive stages of development ..."

It is unknown how much these harsh weather conditions will be reflected in crop forecasts. But it is fair to say at least some reduction compared to previous estimates, and to last year, in the important French wheat crop is likely.

Also on the wheat crop subject: DTN crops editor Jason Jenkins will gather firsthand details on the important U.S. hard red winter wheat crop during the 2024 Hard Winter Wheat Tour the week of May 13, focusing on Kansas.

Watch for daily updates and final yield estimates on and on social platform X @JasonJenkinsDTN and @dtnpf.


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