Ukraine: Fall Dryness for 2010/11 Winter Grains
Conditions for a portion of Ukraine’s 2010/11 winter grains have been alarmingly unfavorable due to persistent dryness. Weather data and satellite imagery indicate that both surface and subsurface moisture during August and September were the lowest in recent years. Although the situation has improved following rainfall in late September and early October, the earlier dryness hampered the emergence and establishment of winter crops in significant areas of southern and eastern Ukraine. Subsurface moisture reserves remain significantly below normal. (View surface-wetness graphs of southern, eastern, and central Ukraine.)
Although September conditions were unusually poor and certainly had a negative effect on winter-grain prospects, it is too early to forecast major weather-related area or yield losses for 2010/11 winter grains. Winter wheat is an extremely resilient crop and yield will hinge largely on subsequent weather. Note also that by September 29, which was several days after the arrival of beneficial rainfall, nearly 40 percent of the forecast winter-grain area had not yet been planted. Because of the increased surface soil moisture, crops planted during October are likely to sprout and become established under favorable conditions. Data from the Ministry of Agrarian Policy indicate that planting is advancing at a typical pace and progress is slightly ahead of last year. As of October 20, winter grains were sown on 7.4 million hectares against the official forecast of 7.8 million, and compared to 7.3 million hectares planted by the same date last year. The total includes 5.99 million wheat, 1.11 million barley, and 0.29 million rye. (Winter wheat typically accounts for about 95 percent of Ukraine’s total wheat production, and winter barley for 10 to 20 percent of total barley output. Virtually all of Ukraine’s rye is winter rye.) Last year, heavy rain delayed sowing in late September but planting accelerated during early October and continued into early November. Final sown area for 2009/10 winter grains reached a reported 7.6 million hectares, slightly surpassing the official forecast.
The most recent season marked by excessive fall dryness was 2006/07 winter-crop season. Dry weather during the autumn of 2005 resulted in poor emergence and establishment. In January 2006, officials estimated that 30 percent of 2006/07 winter crops were in poor condition (compared to 27 percent estimated by officials on October 13 for the 2010/11 crop). Personnel from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service observed unusually bad winter-crop conditions during crop-assessment travel in April 2006 (link to trip report) and attributed the damage chiefly to the fall dryness. Despite the crop’s weak condition, however, final reported winterkill was only about 7 percent (against the current 10-year average of about 6 percent). Outstanding weather during May and June compensated in part for the unusually unfavorable start and resulted in final winter wheat yields that were only slightly below average.
A comprehensive survey of agricultural enterprises conducted by APK-Inform, an independent commodity-analysis group in Ukraine, suggests that financial difficulties could pose an additional, non-weather-related threat to 2010/11winter grains. Tight (or unavailable) credit and rising prices for inputs have contributed to a shortage of working capital for farmers in Ukraine. According to farm directors interviewed in the survey, these issues have already led to reductions in the use of fertilizer and high-quality planting seed.
The valuable contribution of Oleksandr Artiushyn, agricultural specialist at the USDA Office of Agricultural Affairs in Kiev, is gratefully acknowledged.
Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD’s Agricultural Production page, or at PSD Online.