Rainfall in the past month has benefitted cropland in much of the European Union but Spain and northern Italy remain affected by drought that could lead farmers to rethink spring planting plans, the EU's crop monitoring service has said.
Substantial precipitation since March has boosted soil moisture in much of the continent after a dry end to winter, though wet conditions coupled with cool temperatures have slowed spring sowing, the MARS service said in a monthly report.
'This is leading to a substantial reduction in planted area and/or shifts from rice or maize to more drought-tolerant crops,' MARS said, adding farmers might decide not to plant some non-irrigated fields at all.
Earlier-sown winter crops and spring barley were being negatively affected in Spain and Portugal, though they remained in fair condition in Italy, it said.
Parts of southern Europe have stayed dry since severe drought last summer, raising fears of a repeat of massive wildfires and depleted harvests seen in 2022.
In yield projections, MARS reduced slightly its forecast of this year's EU soft wheat yield to 5.96 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) from an initial projection of 5.99 t/ha last month.
That would nonetheless be 3% above both 2022 and the average of the past five years.
The forecast EU rapeseed yield was increased to 3.31 t/ha from 3.29 t/ha last month, down 1% from 2022 but 7% above the five-year average.
In a first projection of the EU's total barley yield, including both winter and spring crop, MARS forecast the yield at 4.92 t/ha, down 2% versus 2022 but 1% higher than the five-year average.