SYRIA: Record Wheat Production Outlook in 2010/11
After several drought-affected growing seasons, Syria appears poised to produce a record winter grain harvest in 2010/11. Above normal rainfall over the bulk of the winter growing season, as well as warmer than normal temperatures, provided generally ideal grain growing conditions. Crop development was robust, with satellite imagery in April revealing that the majority of the grain belt was covered by unusually lush wheat and barley crops.
Winter grains are currently showing unusually strong development in all provinces of the country. Major rainfed regions that normally have thin crop stands and low yield potential are also doing extremely well, with dense and vigorous crop vegetation evident in late April. Unusually warm winter temperatures have also hastened crop growth rates, with most areas showing crop development a few weeks to a month ahead of normal. This implies that harvest will be early as well, and that the most moisture sensitive crop growth periods are already past. The national wheat harvest normally occurs from June to early July.
Beneficial seasonal rainfall conditions and increased use of irrigation allowed Syria to increase wheat production this year. Rainfall was especially favorable from September through February, providing ample moisture for crop establishment and growth. Above normal precipitation during the planting period from October through December ensured widespread success of early crop establishment, with Syrian farmers reportedly increasing wheat area by 10 percent compared to last year. Satellite-derived vegetation index data in April showed general crop development to be much denser and more vigorous than last year, reflecting the ideal growing environment and signaling significantly increased grain production. USDA estimates that total wheat production in 2010/11 will reach a record 5.0 million tons, with harvested area at 1.65 million hectares.
Vegetation index (NDVI) graphs are useful for gauging the growth, development, and production potential of agricultural crops. They are especially useful in years such as this in illustrating the timing of key growth phases and the crops potential yield. From the two graphs above, which illustrate winter grain conditions in Alleppo and Al Hassakah (representing 53 percent of total Syrian wheat production) it is apparent that crop development was superior to last year and that peak growth occurred earlier than normal. In the case of Al Hassakah, peak growth stage came a month early while yield potential is vastly improved over the past two growing seasons and is also significantly above average. Very similar conditions were measured in all other major and minor producing provinces, leading to conclusions that a major recovery in winter grain production was underway.
Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online.