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Ukraine, Russia wheat hurting for rain

Jeff Caldwell 05/22/2012 @ 10:40am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Much of what's underpinned a hot wheat market lately is drought stress not just in the U.S., but in major wheat-growing regions abroad, namely in parts of eastern Europe.

It's been dry in the former Soviet Union (FSU) wheat belt, putting a lot of stress on the region's wheat yield potential, according to the latest seasonal outlook from the Commodity Weather Group (CWG), LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland.

"For the FSU, the dryness is mainly focused on southern sections of Ukraine and Russia corn/sunflower areas," according to CWG. "Given the very low soil moisture supplies, stress during dry spells would be quick to set in."

Smack-dab in the middle of this hot, dry spell that's got yield potential slipping quickly in the FSU region, the winter wheat is starting to head out, says Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It's a time when meeting the crop's moisture needs is most critical to its development.

"Yield potential is declining rapidly as moisture needs increase," Keeney says.

That may be changing soon, though. Rainfall chances increase over the next couple of weeks, Keeney says, and though they're not expected to ease the drought altogether, they should help slow down the decline in yield potential.

"Forecast models are in agreement today, showing more seasonal temperatures through next week, as well as some rainfall for southeastern Ukraine into south central Russia later this week and over the weekend," he says.

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