Dry weather in southern EU raises concerns for winter crops, MARS says

FILE PHOTO: A farmer plows next to a rapeseed field, near the Mont Saint-Michel 11th century abbey, in Ardevon

PARIS (Reuters) - Winter crops in most of Europe were off to a good start, helped by historically warm weather and sufficient moisture, but a lack of rain is prompting concern in the southern region, the European Union's crop monitor MARS said on Monday.

Crop conditions for next year's harvest are being closely watched at a time when grain and oilseed global supplies are being disrupted by the war in Ukraine and after summer crops like maize already endured historic drought in the EU last season.

"In most regions, the exceptional warm temperatures, combined with adequate topsoil moisture conditions, favoured emergence and early establishment of winter crops, and allowed late sown crops to catch up in development," MARS said in a monthly report.

The period under review in the report, between Oct. 1 and mid-November, was the warmest on MARS' records going back 31 years.

Negative effects from warmer-than-usual temperatures, including low frost tolerance and increased pest and disease pressure, were not yet alarming, it said.

However it warned that dry weather in large parts of southern Europe, including southern Spain and central and northern Italy, eastern Romania and Bulgaria, was raising concerns for winter crops.

The situation was most serious in southeastern Bulgaria, where little rain had fallen since August, and substantial areas might have to be resown with other crops in spring, it said.

Some rainfall deficits were also observed in southern France, north-eastern Germany, eastern Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia and Croatia but so far without substantial impacts on winter cereals, it said.

For rapeseed, sown earlier than wheat and barley, MARS said the warm October had favoured crops' development in the main producing countries. It added, however, that considerable pest pressure had been reported during the review period.

The seasonal outlook up to the end of February was for likely warmer-than-usual conditions in Central and Eastern Europe and highly likely warmer-than-usual conditions in Scandinavia and northern European Russia, it also said.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Deepa Babington)