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News article23 January 2023Joint Research Centre

2023 gets off to a fair start for winter crops

Unusually warm weather can store up trouble for the coming months.

Winter crops in frost
Whilst winter crops in most of Europe remain in fair to good condition, recent warmer-than-usual weather and yo-yoing between temperature extremes are concerns.
© Janis Smits - stock.adobe.com

According to the January 2023 issue of the JRC MARS Bulletin - Crop monitoring in Europe, December started with relatively cold conditions in large parts of Europe, which lasted until 18 December 2022. 

This was followed by an abrupt transition to much warmer weather, with the New Year period even seeing record-breaking temperatures.

Because of the shift, much of the cold tolerance previously built up in winter crops was lost. Called de-hardening, this leads to increased frost damage vulnerability should cold spells subsequently occur. Moreover, alternating freeze/thaw cycles can damage plants, thus reducing their vigour and negatively affecting spring regrowth.

Warm temperatures also saw snowpacks in the Alps reach historic lows. If not restored, water availability for irrigation downstream will be problematic come spring. Mild winter conditions are also associated with high pest and disease survival rates.

Map of areas of concern

Limited frost damage so far

On the positive side, frost damage has been limited. A severe cold spell in Russia’s Volga okrug (around 10 January) is likely to have caused damage, as crops were hardened but insufficiently protected by snow. Weather forecasts to 28 January do not foresee additional frost damage in Europe.

Mixed effects of surplus precipitation and rainfall deficit

Surplus precipitation was seen in northern and central Europe, the Benelux countries, and the west Iberian Peninsula. This is welcomed where soil moisture and groundwater were depleted in summer 2022, but not for slowly draining soils, which are subject to anoxia when temperatures remain above 0°C, and can lead to mechanical damage to crops when the water-logged soils freeze.

The rainfall deficit in south-eastern Spain, southern Italy, and Bulgaria is of no immediate concern for winter crops, but caused further delays to sowing in Türkiye. In Algeria and Tunisia, where drought conditions continued, rainfall is urgently needed to avoid severe losses to crop yields.

JRC MARS Bulletins 2023 publication schedule

The 2023 issues of the JRC MARS Bulletins - Crop monitoring in Europe are scheduled for publication on:

  •     23 January
  •     20 February
  •     20 March
  •     24 April
  •     22 May
  •     19 June
  •     24 July
  •     21 August
  •     18 September
  •     23 October
  •     27 November
  •     18 December

The 2023 issues of the JRC MARS Bulletins in the Global outlook series are scheduled for publication on

  •     20 February (North Africa)
  •     24 April (Türkiye)
  •     22 May (North Africa)
  •     12 June (Ukraine)
  •     26 June (Kazakhstan, Russia)
  •     11 September (Ukraine)
  •     18 September (Türkiye)
  •     25 September (Kazakhstan, Russia)

Further information

JRC MARS (Monitoring Agricultural Resources) Bulletins

JRC AGRI4CAST Toolbox

The latest information about global agricultural production hotspots for countries at risk of food insecurity is available on the JRC’s ASAP (Anomaly hot Spots of Agricultural Production) site.

Details

Publication date
23 January 2023
Author
Joint Research Centre