Ag Weather Forum

Black Sea Wheat, Newly Planted Corn and Sunflowers Need Rain Now

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Rainfall over the last two months in the Black Sea Region -- especially eastern Ukraine and southwestern Russia -- has been well below normal. (DTN graphic)

Weather conditions have been poor across a lot of the world's primary growing areas either to end their season, as is the case in South America (…), or to start their season in the Canadian Prairies (…) and western Europe (…).

While the situation in Canada is getting better, others are not having the same luck. We can throw the Black Sea region, which comprises Ukraine and southwestern Russia, into the mix for areas with poor weather to start the crop season as well.

This was not a region producers and traders worried about over the winter. The harsh cold largely held off and out of the region, so while snowpack was lower than normal, death to dormant winter wheat was not considered. While snowpack was low, precipitation was actually pretty high over the winter months. The crop was sown into some decent soil moisture in the fall but absorbed above-normal precipitation over the winter and set up both surface and subsoils with adequate moisture for the winter crop for spring.

But that started to fade in February. The weather pattern became much less active. Storm systems went around the region, either off to the north or the south and left eastern Ukraine and southwestern Russia, the primary winter wheat areas, with very little precipitation all the way through April. Though temperatures remained above normal most of the time, it was not enough to completely sap soil moisture out of the surface. But as the winter wheat awoke, which was early by all metrics, it quickly changed the outlook. Surface moisture is very dry and subsoil moisture is starting to run out as well. What looked like a promising crop is now desperate for rain. Some streaks of light to even heavy rain have fallen in the region in late April and early May, but they have been awfully narrow and overall unhelpful on the macroscale.

The meager systems that have come through with the showers have also brought cooler air recently. That is helpful in some regard as it reduces the demand for moisture. But it has brought negative consequences to areas of frost. That has been most intense across the northern portions of the Central and Volga districts of Russia, where wheat is less developed, but some burn-back damage may have occurred. And the forecast going forward is not very helpful either.

The pattern is getting more active in this region, but it's coming from cold fronts dropping south instead of systems moving from the west or southwest that have access to moisture from the Mediterranean or Black Sea. Overall, the rain streaks that are coming are light and narrow, like we have seen recently. There may be a better system for May 15-16, but that forecast is still well into the future and will likely change in the models over the next several days. Even then, the streaks of rain are only a little more numerous than they have been. And these systems and fronts coming through will continue to bring in colder temperatures as well.

The risks of frost continue to be mostly in the Central and Volga districts in Russia, but there is some potential for light frosts into northeast Ukraine or a bit farther south in southwestern Russia. Any risk of frost that goes along with the drier conditions will continue to chip away at production estimates for wheat.

The warmer and drier spring has allowed planters to roll quickly across the south. And western and central Ukraine, where more corn and sunflowers are grown, have seen better rainfall than those areas farther east. That came mostly in early to mid-April, though, and has been drier in recent weeks. These areas are going to need some moisture soon as the march toward summer heat continues.

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