Winter oilseed rape struggled to germinate and emerge in dry soil and age enough before the onset of winter.
The late warm spell at the back end of the year certainly helped but declining light levels coupled with underdeveloped plants meant any additional growth was small.
As a result I anticipate higher than average levels of winter kill. This in itself is not a major problem, the real issue is how farmers deal with the crop as they break dormancy.
There is a tendency amongst inexperience rape growers to assess a poor looking crop in March and to hold back on the inputs which then results in a poor yielding crop which leaves the grower feeling exonerated they made the right decision; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.
More often than not rape will bounce back to acceptable levels with a bit of TLC in the form of nitrogen and sunshine, but with rising fertiliser prices and growers short on working capital I suspect more than normal will bottle out and cut inputs.
Expect low yields as a result.
Autumn sown wheat & barley looked good going in to the winter, sown later than rape they did get some rain and emerged rapidly from moist warm seedbeds.
The late warm spell helped the later sown crops catch up and get to a decent size by the onset of winter with plants in central Ukraine putting on a 5-6 leaves with a couple of tillers.
While we still have a long way to go, current reports from farms suggest winter so far has been kind and crops are in good condition but it is worth remembering that they were in good condition this time last year when a rapid thaw followed by a return to sub-zero temperatures created pools of solid ice that killed an estimated 20-30% of the plants.
Temperatures in Kiev are currently well above freezing, even spring like and snow cover has been disappearing, however in scenes reminiscent to last year the forecast is for return to seriously sub-zero temperatures by the weekend.
The export ban has reduced working capital available for inputs and fertiliser and diesel prices are steadily rising so it looks set to be another challenging year ahead.