Thursday, 28 May 2015

Latest USDA weather update

Western FSU

Following recent rain, sunny skies and near to above normal temperatures encouraged winter and summer crop development. 

In Ukraine, where last week’s rain alleviated dryness concerns in the north, dry, warm weather (up to 4°C above normal) facilitated the development of vegetative to heading winter wheat as well as emerging corn and sunflowers. 

Dry weather in central and southern Russia also favoured vegetative to reproductive winter crops, though short term dryness had begun to develop in south western portions of Russia’s Southern District (Krasnodar Oblast). 

However, wheat prospects remained favourable in the key southern winter wheat areas due to near to above normal seasonal rainfall and the return of showers (per satellite) on May 26. 

In Moldova, dry weather accelerated corn and spring grain planting, while showery conditions in Belarus and northern Russia maintained favourable moisture for spring grains and summer crops.

Eastern FSU

Wet weather slowed spring wheat sowing in the north but maintained favourable supplemental moisture supplies for irrigated crops in the south.

A slow-moving storm system generated 15 to 50 mm of rain across most key growing areas of northern Kazakhstan and south-central Russia, hampering spring wheat planting efforts for much of the week. 

Spring wheat is typically planted during May, and crop areas in the southern Urals District and neighbouring portions of northern Kazakhstan have received 200 to 400 percent of normal rainfall over the past 30 days (as of May 24). 

However, drier weather at the end of the week allowed producers to resume fieldwork, particularly in the Siberia District where soils are less saturated. 

Meanwhile, variable but widespread showers (2-40 mm) over southern portions of the region provided supplemental moisture for recently-planted cotton as well as reproductive to filling winter grains.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ukraine & Russia mid-week review

Russia and Ukraine spring plantings are in the closing stages and we are starting to see the final numbers.

In Russia spring wheat and barley hectares are down 13% and 15% on the same point last year with a combined shortfall of 2.1mha.  

Wet weather has been the official reason for the shortfall but state induced low prices and another wheat export tax already being talked about days after the previous export tax was lifted won’t have helped.

Sunflower plantings are down 11% which is 600,000ha on last year so I would anticipate that getting closer over the next five days.

Corn is up 4% on last year but a drop in average yield of only 200kg/ha would cancel that out so I wouldn't consider it to be all that significant.

Soya is up around 8% but as a low yielding crop that would only equate to an additional 134,000mt on a national yield of around 1.5mmt and equally could be wiped out with a drop in average yield of 100kg/ha or so.

Potatoes and vegetables plantings are up 40% on last year as farmers capitalise on the food embargo which, following a clear heads up from the new Minister of Agriculture this week, won’t be going away any time soon.

Over in Ukraine corn plantings are down 15% with 600,000ha behind last year which I don’t see catching up much in the next week because farmers opted to use more home grown varieties in a bid to conserve cash and these will not have the low days to maturity characteristics needed this late on.

If these proportions stay broadly the same through to the end of plantings then the crop will need to produce an additional average yield of 700kg/ha plus to fill the shortfall on last year; not something that is at all likely to happen as along with using domestic seed to save costs farmers have been cutting fertiliser rates.

I would give you some numbers on Ukraine’s cereal crops but the Ministry hasn't been clear on that of late but the Minister of Agriculture is to give a press conference on spring plantings tomorrow lunchtime so hopefully we will have a better picture by then.

Still in Ukraine and in an effort to stimulate the livestock sector the government is considering plans to reimburse farmers 50% of the cost of new animals up to 12,000 UAH (550 USD) per head as well as the costs of construction and reconstruction of livestock facilities.  It was also suggested that they will commission 190 livestock farms including 100 dairy farms, 50 pig farms and 20 poultry farms during 2015-16.  It will be interesting to see where the funding comes from.

Back in Russia and the Sugar Producers' Union said that up to 90,000ha of beet crop could be damaged by strong winds in the Central Federal District which has just been confirmed by a contact of mine who said the damage is substantial in his area and has affected sunflower too.

We used to plant barley or straw between the rows to stop windblow, perhaps I should tell them.

I received reports this week that “dryland wheat in southern Russia was starting to suffer from a cumulative lack of rain" and recent high temperatures and “rain is sorely needed in central Russia” particularly where they have finished plantings.

Following a quick trip out of the office yesterday I also confirmed that wheat in Kursk is starting to show signs of drought (pictured) although as I write the skies have clouded over and the air is heavy with thunder which is about right as I'm off to a barbecue tonight.

Crimea mentioned that irrigated land is down to 13,000ha from 140,000ha in 2013 as no alternative water sources have been provided by authorities after Ukraine closed off the North Crimea Canal following the Russian annexation in 2014.

Still in Crimea and the regional head got his excuse in early and saying they need 3bn RUB state support to buy 700 machines for planting and harvesting to realise a successful harvest.  I assume he realises Crimea will start harvest in a couple of weeks’ time so he needs to get his skates on to secure funding, place an order, take delivery and assemble a fleet of combines.

Also getting his excuse in early is Rostov's Minister of Agriculture who announced today that 2015 harvest will be 20% down on last year (down from 9.5mmt to 7.7mmt) mentioning a dry autumn and a lack of bank credit as the main problem.

And finally, only days after lifting its export tax on wheat Russia is suggesting it might tax wheat exports again in order to protect livestock farmers from rising feed costs but fail to mention how they will protect grain farmers from low prices.

A quick reminder that we are taking subscriptions for the next Crop Tour which is now scheduled for second week of June and that I will be in touch with those who have expressed an interest once I can get my IT systems functioning properly.

Right, I'm off to throw a shrimp on the barbie.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Shearly there's been a mistake?

One of our neighbours has a rag tag bunch of sheep which just seem to wander around the village.

Apart from the ones in the picture that is which he tethers to a stake outside the front of his house for some reason.

In this hot weather I started feeling for them and asked if he had some shears so we could get their fleeces off.

Turns out he does and he’s got 79 sheep, didn't look to be that many when I've seen them wandering about, may be he’s been hiding a few.

What have I got myself into, it must be coming up to ten years since I've sheared a sheep and I haven’t seen these shears yet.

Latest Ukraine spring sowing update

As of yesterday Ukraine's Ministry of Agriculture reported that spring cereals and legumes plantings stand at 6.6mha or 95%.

At the same point last year farmers had planted a million hectares more which will start to put pressure on the Minister of Agricultures assessment that 2015 will be another bumper year now the planting season is coming to a close.

Also don’t forget that inputs have been reduced so what is growing will in all reality likely yield less than last year.  Plus it won’t be long before we start hearing the “D” word* as we move in to the drier summer months.

Anyway for the record the Ministry are reporting corn at 4.1mha or 93% (4.7mha in 2014); sunflowers 4.5mha or 98% (4.4mha in 2014); soya 1.9mha or 97% (1.6mha in 2014); millet 80kha or 82% (88kha in 2014); rice 11.2kha or 98% (10kha in 2014) and not forgetting our ould friend, buckwheat 106kha or 83% (128kha in 2014).

To summarise some key points, sunflowers plantings are about the same as last year, soya is up 16% while corn is down 15%.

If you look at corn output over the last ten years it spikes noticeably during the Yanukovych years as his government pushed corn production to generate cash dollars to spend on old ladies pensions or possibly private zoo’s and gold loaves.

Perhaps we are just seeing a realignment back to where Ukraine’s corn output should be.

*Hint, begins with d ends in rought

Latest Russian spring sowing update

According to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture spring sowing currently stand at 36.9mha or 71% of the plan (39.4mha in 2014).

They then confuse the picture, at least for me they do by saying this includes 22.1mha of spring grains. 

I have tried every combination of what may or may not be included as a spring and I can’t get it to balance with 22.1mha, if anyone can shed any light on what I’m doing wrong I’d be happy to hear it.

I don’t have previous seasons numbers to hand but 71% complete in the last week of May seems low and considering it’s now hot and dry what is going in now will have an increasingly hard time.

Talking of hot, winter cereals are coming in to ear and flowering which is starting to look like it will coincide with these very high daytime temperatures we are getting at the moment.  High temperatures at flowering will, amongst other negative effects, reduce the number of grain per ear and thus the overall yield.

In my experience heat in the FSU has a greater negative impact on yields than the cold but we persist in our view that Russia is in a state of deep freeze and winter kill is a big issue.

It’s getting so warm now I have had to start running in the mornings to avoid the heat of the day.

For the record and for what they are worth here are the Ministry of Agricultures latest spring sowings by region and crop.

Crimea (contentious) 207kha (97%); Southern 5.3mha (90%); North Caucasus 1.5mha (87%); Central 8.1mha (93%); Volga 11.9mha (76%); North-West 292kha (62%); Siberia7.5mha (57%); Far East 722kha (43%); Urals 1.4mha (32%).

Spring wheat 8.2mha or 63% (9.3mha in 2014); spring barley 6.5mha or 79% (7.5mha in 2014); corn 2.5mha or 88% (2.4mha ion 2014); sunflower 5.6mha or 84% (6.2mha in 2014); soybeans 1.2mha or 59% (1.1mha in 2014); spring oilseed rape 654.8kha or 71% (755.5kha in 2014).; rice 170.3kha or 80% (164.7kha in 2014); flax 37.2kha or 70% (39kha in 2014); sugar beet 993kha 101% (906kha in 2014); potatoes 304.9kha or 81% (195.7kha in 2014); vegetables 142kha or 77% (83.7kha in 2014).

To summarise that little lot; spring cereals, spring oilseed rape and sunflowers are down 11-15% on last year, corn and soya are up slightly at 4% and 8% respectively but the stand out figures for me at this stage are potatoes and vegetables up 40%.

See yesterday’s blog.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Will Russia continue to dig for victory?

Russia’s self-imposed food embargo doesn't look like it will be lifted any time soon.

The embargo imposed last August in response to EU, US and some other countries sanctions over Russia’s role in Crimea and eastern Ukraine was initially set for twelve months.

Following comments last week by Russia's new Minister of Agriculture it doesn't sound like they're going to lift it at all.

Initially western media suggested supermarket shelves emptied as retailers struggled to find alternative supply's hinting that the embargo was hitting hard.

That may have been the case towards the end of last year although I doubt it but because I wasn't here so I can't say for certain.  It’s definitely not the situation now as supermarkets are full of food and shoppers.

Furthermore no one I meet mentions sanctions or embargo's or a lack of their favourite food item so it doesn't appear to be harming Putin's popularity ratings.

They do mention that the price of food and just about everything else has gone up but seem resigned to that in the same way we all are by giving a shrug of the shoulders and saying “what can I do about it?”

I am reading reports that production in Russia has increased in response to the embargo but I'm not entirely convinced that is the case as yet.

For example one recent report said pig output was up 8% on the same period last year in response to the embargo.

The thing is, if Yuri the pig farmer had dutifully followed the call to up production and immediately inseminated every available sow he could find, the resulting off spring would only be reaching slaughter weight now.

Likewise beef animals produced to fill the gap would only be a month old by now and you can forget about more milk for at least another couple of years.

It’s a similar situation in fruit and veg; increasing apple production requires planting new orchards which I assume take several years to come on line.

Vegetables are a more likely candidate but I doubt much was done when the embargo's were first imposed last summer because there wouldn't have been time to grow much before winter.

I guess more vegetables may have been planted this spring but I doubt much extra investment in infrastructure has been made over what was already in the pipeline.

Which is why I believe Putin will be unlikely to lift the embargo any time soon.

He has asked the nation to do its patriotic duty, grow more food and become self-sufficient which is not a bad idea but investors will have been seeking assurances over this last year that if they do step up to the plate he won’t go changing the goalposts again.

At this time every indication is Russia will retain the embargo come August and use it as an opportunity to talk up food production, whether they actually do increase production is another matter.

I expect we will see some relaxation on items that they will struggle supply such as dairy and also as a political tool to create discord amongst the sanction nations. but the basic embargo looks like it's here to stay.

I wonder what the WTO have to say about it all?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Rain stops play in Kazakhstan

Heavy rains in Kazakhstan have stopped the spring planting campaign in almost all oblasts of the country according to Auezkhan Darinov, Chairman of the Union of Farmers of Kazakhstan.

Mr Darinov said that in general spring planting should be completed by 1 June with some regions going on to 5 June but it is too early to say that the planting campaign is at risk of failure.

But he conceded that if it keeps raining for another three or four days then that risk will appear.  According to forecasts it’s expected to rain for the next three or four days so it appears there is a risk.

To date Ministry figures say farmers have planted 1.2mha (8.8%) of spring grains as opposed to 1.8mha (12.6%) on the same date last year.

If these numbers are accurate - I can’t currently access the Ministry website to confirm - this would put a big dent in Kazakhstan’s grain output this year.

Although it is worth reminding ourselves that it’s not the planting date that’s important it’s the emergence date.

Planting late into warm moist soils is often the same as planting early in to dry soils so don’t write them off just yet.

Why Ukraine and Russia official crop yield forecast might be optimistic

Around this time of year I receive requests to put my assessment on what I think crops in Ukraine and Russia will do.

I usually resist putting a yield figure on it as generally it would be a guess based on what other people have already said.

That is until we initiated Crop Tour.

Now that we are travelling around the grain belt looking at crops, walking fields, measuring and assessing plants we are starting to feel a little more confident that we could put a yield figure forward based on more than just a feeling.

Over the course of the last six weeks we have officially covered 5,800km in pursuit of Crop Tour, unofficially it’s probably nearer 8,000km as we assess crops going about our daily business.

That’s one of the pleasures of being a farmer, every journey is spent watching fields and farming systems role past the window and one of the reasons I prefer trains over planes.

I still have a bit more development to do before I stick my neck out and make a call on crop yield but before I do here's a review what’s been said over the last few weeks.

Ukraine are saying sowing and crop yield projections are normal and good with plantings forecast to be around the same as last year at 26mha and 90% of winter crops in good to satisfactory condition.

They are also saying everyone has sufficient seed, sprays and diesel and fertiliser is down only 8% on last year.

The USDA recently pegged Ukraine’s total 2015 yield at 55.3mmt which immediately received a rebuttal from the Minister of Agriculture Oleksiy Pavlenko who said it would exceed 55mmt adding that the Ministry will announce its own more accurate forecast after completion of the spring crop planting works, in the last week of May the first week of June.

Which he means that he doesn't know for sure, he hopes it will be more, his guys are telling him it will be, he’ll get back to you on that one.

I don’t understand why he contest it?  The more negative news about crops in general the more the market will react with favourable prices and if come harvest you do have more to sell well that’s just tickety-boo.

Anyway, my assessment is that all is not entirely tickety-boo in Ukraine’s garden.  I don’t buy the 90% is good line, we assessed 60% to be fair to good and while we might be a little harsh in our marking I don’t believe we are 30 points adrift.

What we saw was a lot of thin crops which will have bulked out in the recent warm wet weather but they are still thin crops; yield is a function of the number of ears in a given area and spring rains don't increase the number of ears.

I also don’t buy the fertiliser 8% story either.  During our investigations we kept hearing numbers of 30% and while it’s not cut and dried, knowing that fertiliser is THE single biggest crop cost then shortage of finance means it will be hit the most.

You can’t cut seed or you don’t have a crop, Ukraine’s pesticide usage is already low so there’s not much to trim there, you need a minimum of diesel to plant and harvest, what else is there to cut but fertiliser?

Across the border in Russia we hear a similar rose tinted story from the new Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev sticking with a resolute 100mmt grain harvest.

He is saying that only the Volga, Siberian, and Ural Federal Districts showed some delays in plantings due to weather and he believes that agrarians will manage to plant spring crops in optimum terms. 

They’ll need to shake a leg then as each day delayed planting equates to a drop in yield and it will not be in optimum terms.  Not to mention the imminent yield sapping hot dry weather heading to southern Russia from Spain.

Over the last few weeks in addition to the Russian Ministry 100mmt figure I have heard 97mmt, 95mmt and a low from the USDA of 92mmt.

Whatever it turns out to be I don’t know anyone who thinks it will be 100mmt.

To finish off, Elizaveta Malyshko from UkrAgroConsult recently wrote that over the last 20 years Ukraine has faced severe crisis several times, but never (even in early '90s) was it followed by sharp reduction of grain acreage.

Now that's interesting.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What the buckwheat?

I probably have better things to do than writing about Ukraine’s buckwheat crop but I find it oddly fascinating.

To recap, a couple of weeks back Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture held a conference call with all his regional Heads of Administration and instructed them to instruct farmers to plant an additional 50,000ha of the crop.

When that failed he went on to instruct the PJSC Agrarian Fund to forward buy buckwheat in an attempt stimulate farmers to plant more crop.

On the face of it this seems to have worked as plantings have increased from 118kha to 125kha with one dutiful comrade reporting he plans to sow a further 16.7kha before the season is out.

Actually what probably happened is the regional Heads shouted and threatened farmers into getting their drills out again.

Yesterday the Ministry announced on its website plans to initiate a state support programme to increase the area of buckwheat plantings which, in their words, every year due to low profitability, declines.

Wouldn't it be better to let it decline which would then increase the price which would then stimulate farmers in to planting more and presumably find some sort of market balance or am I oversimplifying farming?

Over the last couple of weeks buckwheat has featured prominently on the agenda of the Minister of Agriculture who seems to have taken a personal interest in micro-managing the crop.

I would have thought that given the current situation in Ukraine he would have other priorities over planting buckwheat which only seems to be a problem in the minds of the Ministry who keep telling everyone it’s a problem.

No doubt the saga will continue.

Latest USDA weather update

Western FSU

Additional, well-placed rainfall further eased dryness concerns in central growing areas and boosted soil moisture in the south.

Lingering early-spring dryness in northern Ukraine was alleviated by 10 to 40 mm of rain, benefiting recently-planted corn as well as vegetative winter wheat.

Meanwhile, widespread showers and thunderstorms (10-25 mm, locally more) further improved soil moisture for winter and spring grains as well as emerging summer crops over much of western Russia.

However, favourably drier weather along the Black Sea Coast facilitated fieldwork and winter crop development; southern wheat areas have benefited from near- to above-normal precipitation since crops were planted in autumn.

Temperatures averaged near normal, though slightly warmer conditions (1-3°C above normal) in southern Ukraine contrasted with readings up to 2°C below normal in Belarus.

Eastern FSU

Drier weather promoted fieldwork in central and eastern spring wheat areas, while warm, showery conditions promoted winter wheat and cotton development in the south.

Mostly sunny skies accelerated spring wheat planting and emergence from northcentral Kazakhstan and south-central Russia eastward into the Siberia District.

However, moderate to heavy showers (10-45 mm) continued to hamper sowing in northwestern Kazakhstan and southwestern portions of the Urals District.

Across southern crop areas, above-normal temperatures (3-6°C above normal) and rainfall (10-30 mm) accelerated winter wheat toward maturity and promoted the development of recently-planted cotton over Uzbekistan and neighbouring growing areas.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Summer 2015 Ukraine and Russia Crop Tour

Once again we are looking for sponsorship to fund the next Ukraine and Russia Crop Tour.

This time we will be looking at the post-planting condition of the major spring crops of corn (grain maize), sunflower and soya and the pre-harvest condition of winter and spring grains and oilseed rape.

The Crop Tour is planned for the beginning of June and like our previous April Crop Tour we will cover 4 to 5,000km through Ukraine and Russia over a ten day period.

The aim is to achieve a clear, objective picture of the condition of the spring crops and the yield potential of the winter grains just prior to harvest.

We will use a number of techniques to gain a clear understanding of crop condition including rapid appraisals, samples of key yield indicators, farm visits and interviews with current farm mangers and agronomists.

Contributors to the Crop Tour will receive an emailed end of tour report summarising all the information recorded including comments, opinion and observation with photographs and videos.

We will operate a dedicated member only Twitter account during the Crop Tour that will provide an ongoing commentary and dialogue for the duration.

We are asking a contribution of £75, €100 or $115 towards our costs.

Please register your interest or send any questions to me at 


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Crop Tour II

Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture reacts to yesterday’s USDA forecast of a 55mmt harvest saying they will exceed it.

He went on to say that the Ministry will announce its own more accurate forecast after completion of the spring crops plantings in the last week of May - the first week of June.

Which coincidentally is exactly when I am planning my Crop Tour of Ukraine (and Russia) to be able to announce my comments on the condition of the post-emergent spring planted crops and the pre-harvest condition of the winter crops.

If you would like to follow the tour, receive updates and photographs during the tour, receive a copy of the tour report, be able to ask questions or just follow for fun then send me an email/twitter DM and I’ll sign you up.

The cost for this independent, boots on the ground practical assessment is only £75 or €100 or $115 or pro-rata any other currency.

More buckwheat please

A week ago Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Yaroslav Krasnopolskiy, declared spring planting would be all over in the next 7-10 days.

A week later and the Ministry of Agriculture, Oleksiy Pavlenko, said he expected a successfully completion of the planting campaign in two weeks.

What the Deputy Minister failed to take in to account is that whatever amount of time someone in Ukraine tells you anything will take, you need to double it, add a bit then wait five more minutes.

The first Minister also reported 83% plantings are complete but registered some unwillingness amongst farmers to plant extra buckwheat.

You may recall that ten days ago he instructed his Heads of Administrations to instruct farmers to plant an additional 50,000ha of the crop to avoid shortages and panic buying later in the year – I presume by acknowledging the unwillingness of cash strapped farmers to man the planters this hasn't happened.

Which in my mind at least is indicative of a broader attempt to manage information on food availability and security but does beg the question why address the buckwheat issue so publicly?

In the grand scheme of things an extra 50,000ha of buckwheat isn't really all that and trying to resolve it at Ministerial level when the country is bankrupt seems a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Anyway, to stimulate farmers to plant more buckwheat the PJSC Agrarian Fund has now begun to purchase forward contracts, which is probably what should have been done ten days ago rather than issuing declarations.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Ukraine mainly reigns in Spain

Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture Oleksiy Pavlenko has had a busy week in Spain.

On Tuesday he gave a presentation to the food security forum in Barcelona on increasing the supply of agricultural products to Mediterranean countries pointing out that in 2014, 64% of Ukraine’s agricultural turnover was with EU countries (I need to check that).

He then went on to meet the Deputy Director General of the FAO, Laurent Thomas and discussed Ukraine’s role in providing food security to the Mediterranean region.

He also met the Vice President of the World Bank, Hafez Ganem and they agreed that agriculture plays a significant role in ensuring social stability in the Mediterranean while Pavlenko stressed the importance of collaborative joint investment projects with the World Bank.

Then on Wednesday he met EBRD Vice President of Policy and Partnership, Philippe Le Uerom and stressed that the development of a dynamic, competitive and inclusive agricultural sector is the key to food security in the world and the Mediterranean region in particular.

It might not seem like it at the moment, particularly if your knowledge of Ukraine is gleaned from the news on the telly, but Ukraine is gearing up to be a powerful agricultural producer and exporter.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ministry of Agriculture or Crop Tour?

Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture are reporting that everything is essentially all good on the farming front this season.

The latest official statements place 88% of winter grains in good and satisfactory condition with 11.6% in poor condition and 0.5% dead.

Our recent Crop Tour of Ukraine called a slightly different assessment with 62% good and satisfactory, 34% poor and 5% very poor.

There are a couple of points to note here, first off, we might not be using the same criteria during our assessments; terms like poor, good and satisfactory are subjective unless supported by some sort of explanation.

I'm sure the Ministry have their detailed assessment criteria that allows all the Ukraine agronomists to calibrate their scores, I know we have.

We base our score on a number of criteria that together will determine the likely yield potential at the time of the assessment against the national average. 

Very poor will produce no yield or well below the national average; poor is likely to yield slightly below or at the national average; satisfactory likely to yield at national average; good likely to yield above the national average; very good will yield above the national average.

(Drop me a line if you would like a full copy of the assessment criteria.)

I have no idea how many people take crop scores for the Ministry, my understanding is they are required to be sent in from each registered holding which if that is the case means the number of people involved will run into the thousands.  

Each with their own slightly different interpretation of what is good, bad or ugly.  Plus no one likes to report bad news particularly if it is about themselves.

In Ukraine we took 289 individual assessments and 40 detailed appraisals which might not sound a lot but it was spread over an indicative area covering 2,300km and the assessment was carried out by two people rather than thousands.

I'm not saying we got it exactly spot on and the Ministry didn't but I feel more comfortable with our findings knowing how they are produced than broad statements issued from the Ministry.

We will continue to learn, develop, refine and improve our sampling strategy and at all times maintain our objectivity and independence.

Our second Crop Tour of 2015 to look at corn, sunflower and soya condition post planting is officially up and running and scheduled for the end of the month.

If you would like to subscribe and support our project drop me a line and I'll send you details.

More to follow soon.

agronomy.croptour @

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Additional showers further eased dryness concerns in central growing areas and maintained favourable soil moisture in the south.

The rain, which fell both at the beginning and end of the period, totalled 2 to 25 mm (locally more) over most of the region’s primary growing areas.

In the south, the moisture sustained favourable prospects for vegetative winter wheat and recently-planted summer crops.

Farther north, the rainfall further reduced lingering long-term (since September 1) precipitation deficits from northern Ukraine into west-central Russia; the recent, persistent wet weather in these northern locales has continued to improve prospects for winter wheat, spring grains, and summer crops.

However, a break from the showery weather during the middle of the week facilitated corn and sunflower planting.

Temperatures averaged up to 6°C above normal, accelerating crop development after last week’s chilly conditions.

Latest USDA weather update for eastern FSU

Drier weather promoted spring grain planting in the north, while locally heavy showers and cooler temperatures in the south eased heat stress on winter wheat.

A passing cold front triggered light to moderate showers (2-25 mm) over northern Kazakhstan and central Russia, slowing early spring wheat planting efforts.

However, sunny skies during the latter half of the period allowed producers to resume field preparations and spring wheat sowing operations.

Farther south, moderate to heavy showers (10-50 mm) in eastern Uzbekistan and neighbouring environs hampered late cotton planting but eased stress on heading to flowering winter wheat caused by last week’s heat.