Early European spring brings frost risk for emerging crops

Spring has arrived in Europe

While most of the winter wheat crop in Canada is still tucked under a blanket of snow, winter crops elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere are emerging from dormancy and beginning active growth.

Winter conditions are still at play over much of North America, but winter wheat crops in Europe are soaking up some early spring conditions. Tweet this

Temperatures across Europe have been above normal recently with winter wheat crops emerging from dormancy in a region stretching across southern and central Europe. Daily high temperatures in this area were mostly in the upper teens and low 20s during the last week of February.

Before you book your tickets for a European spring vacation, there have been some cold days and snow was reported in parts of northern Europe last week. The warmer than normal trend is not without risk for the winter cereal and oilseed crops in Europe.

What's the impact?

The early start to the growing season is usually a favourable situation for crops, but there is an increased risk of frost damage, especially in the winter oilseed crops. Winter rapeseed (canola) in Europe is susceptible to an early season frost if development is advanced. Winter wheat and barley crops are also vulnerable to damage from an ill-timed early frost.

The risk of frost in Europe varies significantly between regions. Western areas of Europe tend to have less risk of an early spring frost, while the eastern areas of Europe are more vulnerable. There is also an increased risk of early frost damage as you move northward in Europe.

Cereal and oilseed crops are also vulnerable to a late season frost during the reproductive growth stage. The probabilities of a late season frost are very low in most regions, but there have been some years where production is reduced by a combination of advanced development and unexpected cold temperatures in late April or early May.

The current forecasts for weather during March in Europe are calling for a continuation of the warm weather trend. If this forecast turns out to be true, the advanced development should not present a problem for crops in Europe this year.

Bottom line

Winter marches on in North America, but the European growing season is off to an early start, increasing production risks to winter wheat crops if temperatures drop.


Bruce Burnett is the director of markets and weather at Glacier Farm Media. Bruce can be reached at bburnett@farmmedia.com or check out the website at MarketsFarm.com.