January 27, 2006


Russian wheat affected by extreme cold



Extreme cold in Russia's Volga, central and southern districts during the Jan 16-20 period is likely to damage some winter wheat crops, the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service said late Wednesday in a special report.


Minimum temperatures fell under -30 deg Celsius for two to three straight days in some areas. In other parts of southern Russia, temperatures ranged between -22 and -30 degrees.


USDA said while Russian crops were fully dormant when the cold temperatures arrived and protected by adequate snow cover, the regions of consistent low temperatures with light or patchy snow probably saw soil temperatures fall far enough "to cause significant damage to dormant winter crops," USDA said.


This includes parts of the prime winter-wheat territories of Saratov and Volgograd, they added. About 70 percent of Russia's winter wheat grows in the areas which saw the bitterly cold weather.


Although some areas likely saw crop damage, USDA believes there was enough snow cover in most of these areas to reduce widespread damage. Even snow cover of about two inches can protect dormant winter wheat against temperatures as low as -25 Celsius, USDA added.


They caution that a full assessment of crop damage would not be available until spring when the crop breaks dormancy. Generally, 10 percent to 15 percent of Russia's planted area is lost due to either persistent fall dryness or severe winter weather. Losses of more than 15 percent are not unusual. Last year winterkill was a low 8 percent, USDA said.


The breadbasket of the Ukraine saw temperatures above the winterkill threshold, including eastern Ukraine where snow cover was patchy. The second wave low temperatures which hit Ukraine and Russia around Jan 20 were preceded by snow and likely prevented much damage.


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