World wheat sowings for next year’s harvests will fall – but not by much, with relatively strong returns prospects encouraging farmers to sow the grain, even into dry soils.
The International Grains Council, in its first estimate for wheat acreage for 2016 harvests, pegged area at 221.0m hectares, including crop to be seeded in the spring.
While down 1.2m hectares year on year, that would represent a relatively strong result, “up fractionally from the five-year average”, the council said.
“Any drop in area might be small.”
The forecast comes despite “concerns about overly dry weather” in some regions, including the former Soviet Union and the US southern Plains, and a drop in prices to levels which, for many growers, are below the cost of production.
‘Potential price rebound’
However, there are “currently few more profitable alternatives to wheat”, the IGC said, flagging also the potential for a rise in values if dryness worries crystalize.
Growers were “mindful of a potential price rebound in the event of a production shock in a major exporter or importer”.
Farmers may, rather than cutting wheat sowings, “instead choose to maximise returns by containing input costs”, and spending on items such as agrichemicals and fertilizers.
US, Russian prospects
In the US, while area sown to hard red winter wheat, as seeded in the dryness-tested southern Plains, might fall “slightly”, plantings of soft red winter wheat, grown in the Midwest, might rebound, after a sharp fall a year ago.
In Russia, where dryness has also testing newly-sown crops in some areas, winter wheat plantings will end up 1% higher – supported by a “strong increase in domestic prices”, which was signalled separately overnight in results of a wheat tender by Egypt.
“Despite some delays caused by dryness, seeding was nearly finished by the end of October,” the IGC said.
“While there were some worries about crop establishment given the dry conditions, especially in southern areas, recent rains were expected to improve prospects.”
‘Very low soil moisture’
In the European Union, the world’s top wheat producer, where weather extremes – too little rain in Poland, and too much further south – have also been an issue, the council forecast only a marginal crop in sowings.
“Common wheat area is forecast to be down slightly, partly offset by an increase in durum sowing.”
It is only in Ukraine, among leading wheat exporting nations, that the IGC forecast dryness significantly curtailing plantings, with soil moisture “very low in southern and eastern parts”.
“Some farmers have sown into dry soils, but the overall pace of winter plantings has been much slower than normal and not all of the planned area may be completed.”
‘Supressed’ rapeseed area
The sanguine expectations for wheat plantings contrast with more downbeat early forecasts for rapeseed seedings in some major growing countries, with the IGC foreseeing EU area at 6.5m hectares, “in line with [the] supressed level” for the 2015 harvest.
“The potential for expansion was thwarted by low prices at the time of fieldwork.
“The ongoing restriction on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is also likely to have discouraged farmers, while crop rotation, aimed at controlling weed growth, pest infestation and the spread of disease, is reported to have trimmed total area in some parts, especially in the UK.”
UK farmers are battling with the spread of black grass, a weed resistant to many specialist herbicides, which many growers are choosing to tackle through spraying off fields in the autumn with more effective generalist weedkillers, and delaying crop sowings to the spring.
For Ukraine, the IGC, in its first full estimate, pegged rapeseed seedings down 30% year on year at 610,000 hectares.
And some of that was “seeded beyond the optimal window”.
With autumn weather cold and dry, not ideal for early crop development, “fields are likely to enter winter in an underdeveloped, weak condition, and could be particularly vulnerable to damaging winter frost”.
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/world-wheat-area-for-2016-to-fall—but-not-by-much–8958.html)