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Commodity Intelligence Report
January 14, 2013

Russia:  January Conditions for 2013/14 Winter Grains

Current conditions for Russia’s 2013/14 winter grains are marked by low soil-moisture reserves in some regions of southern Russia and possible frost damage farther north. Persistent fall dryness prevailed in parts of Russia's Southern District, although timely showers provided adequate moisture for emergence and establishment. Meanwhile, conditions are mixed in the Central and Volga Districts. Prospects are generally better than last year except for some territories, mainly in the Volga District, where low temperatures and shallow snow cover resulted in likely but not excessive frost damage.

The Ministry of Agriculture cites sown winter-grain area for 2013/14 at 15.54 million hectares (including 12.9 million wheat, 1.94 million rye, 0.42 million barley, and 0.26 million triticale), against 16.13 million hectares for 2012/13. Planting was essentially complete by the end of October. Wheat typically comprises about 80 to 85 percent of Russia’s winter-grain area, rye 10 to 15 percent, barley about 3 percent, and triticale about 2 percent. Winter rape, which is not included in the winter-grain total, was planted on a reported 293,000 hectares this fall compared to 129,000 hectares last year.

Winter wheat accounts for about half of Russia’s total wheat area, but for almost two-thirds of the output due to inherently higher yield. Winter barley, on the other hand, comprises a relatively small share of the country’s total barley output; spring barley typically accounts for 90 to 95 percent. Virtually all of Russia’s rye and triticale are winter crops.

Autumn weather was remarkably dry for fall-planted winter crops in the Russia’s Southern and North Caucasus Districts (including Krasnodar, Rostov, Volgograd, and Stavropol territories), which together produce about 60 percent of the country’s winter wheat. Cumulative rainfall in this region was only one-third to one-half of normal from September through November, when winter grains were emerging and becoming established. As a result, soil moisture levels during this period were similarly low; surface-wetness anomaly data derived from microwave satellite imagery indicated substantially below-normal topsoil moisture for winter crops beginning in early September (when fall sowing began in the northern half of the Southern District), and continuing throughout October and November (after planting had concluded in the southernmost regions). Only by early December had surface-moisture conditions noticeably improved in southern Russia.

Despite the meager overall rainfall, satellite-derived vegetative indices and Landsat satellite imagery indicate vigorous winter-crop establishment in some areas due to modest but timely rain. In Krasnodar, for example, two brief episodes of rainy weather – one in mid-September shortly prior to the launch of fall planting and the other at the end of November following full emergence throughout the territory – provided relief for winter crops. Moisture requirements are low for winter crops during the early stages of development, and the well-timed autumn rainfall provided enough moisture for emergence and establishment. Officials reported in December, however, that the share of winter crops in the Southern and North Caucasus Districts rated in poor condition was higher than at the same time in 2011. Moreover, current crop conditions are uneven in southern Russia. Generous December precipitation in Stavropol (mostly in the form of snow) benefited winter-crop prospects and boosted potential subsurface moisture, but precipitation in neighboring Krasnodar has been scarce and moisture reserves remain extremely low.

A brief period of bitterly cold weather in mid-December likely resulted in localized damage to winter crops in parts of European Russia, especially in Volgograd and Saratov oblasts and in parts of neighboring oblasts where minimum temperatures were low and some fields were devoid of insulating snow cover between December 15 and December 25. Northern Volgograd was especially vulnerable to potential damage because the northern half of the territory was completely devoid of snow cover throughout the cold-weather episode. Saratov oblast, meanwhile, received snow within two days of the arrival of the low temperatures. Although the cover was patchy and some fields certainly lacked adequate protection from the cold, the snow probably prevented widespread frost damage to winter grains in Saratov. The country’s top winter-wheat territories (Krasnodar, Stavropol, and Rostov) apparently suffered little or no damage to wheat either because temperatures did not fall to the damage threshold or crops were protected by snow. Total winterkill losses for 2013/14 winter crops, whether due to fall drought, frost damage, or other subsequent weather-related events, will not be determined until late spring when surviving crops in all districts have resumed vegetative growth.

Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD’s Agricultural Production page, or at PSD Online.  The initial USDA estimates for 2013/14 global crop production will be released on May 10, 2013.

For more information contact Mark Lindeman | | (202) 690-0143
USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

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