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UPDATE 1-Dryness dents grain yields in Spain, southeast EU - crop monitor

* MARS trims EU soft wheat, winter barley yield forecasts

* Says dryness strained some crops before return of rain

* EU rapeseed yield forecast left unchanged (Writes through with detail)

PARIS, April 15 (Reuters) - Dry conditions in Spain and southeast Europe have hurt yield prospects there for this year's grain harvest, the European Union's crop monitoring service said on Monday.

After flagging dryness in southern Europe as a risk last month, the MARS said a persistent lack of moisture had led it to lower its yield projections for crops in Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece.

The stress to crops in these parts of southern Europe contrasted with generally decent crop conditions in the EU due to mild weather that has boosted plant growth, MARS said in its April report.

At EU level, the crop monitor slightly lowered its forecast of the average soft wheat yield in 2019 to 6.01 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) from an initial estimate of 6.04 t/ha last month.

That would be up 6.8 percent from a drought-hit 2018 level and 1.2 percent above the average of the past five years.

The EU's 2019 barley yield was projected at 4.95 t/ha, up 7.4 percent from last year.

That included an expected winter barley yield of 6.00 t/ha, revised down slightly from 6.02 t/ha last month, and a first spring barley yield forecast at 4.16 t/ha.

MARS kept unchanged its forecast of the 2019 EU rapeseed yield at 3.19 t/ha, up 12 percent versus last year's poor harvest but 1.3 percent below the five-year average.

Mild weather since winter had helped sowing of crops like spring barley and maize (corn), and substantial rainfall forecast for this week in southeast Europe should help the emergence of young crops there, MARS said.

However, such precipitation may only allow a limited recovery of winter crops like wheat in Romania, it said.

In Spain, the return of rainfall may also help parched fields, although low reservoir levels could pose a problem for summer irrigation of maize, MARS added.

In France, the EU's biggest grain producer, rain last month boosted winter cereals, but conditions remain fragile in shallow soils in some regions like Burgundy, it said.

The yield potential of French rapeseed has been affected in some areas by drought during sowing last year and strong insect pressure since, it said, echoing comments of other crop observers.

Maize planting in France may be slowed by delays in the main southwestern growing belt, where rain so far this month has followed cool temperatures in late March, MARS added.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Valerie Parent; Editing by Sybille de La Hamaide and Jan Harvey)

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