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Arctic blast pounding Russian wheat

The major factor driving the wheat trade higher this week is half the world away from the wheat pits in Chicago and Kansas City.

Arctic air is slamming much of the wheat-growing areas of Ukraine and central Russia, and the spots where there's not quite enough snow cover to insulate the region's winter wheat and barley are starting to suffer from winterkill, says MDA EarthSat Weather senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.

"Snow cover is sufficient in many areas to insulate and protect the crops from damage," he says. "However, snow cover is a bit thin in far southeastern Ukraine and southern Russia, and we estimate about 15% of the winter wheat and 20% of the winter barley will suffer from winterkill damage."

Ordinarily, winterkill isn't as much of a problem in that region, Keeney says. But, a dry fall there led to poor germination and crop establishment, which could amplify the harmful effects of the current Arctic blast. And that makes replanting likely once winter breaks this spring.

"A very dry fall in much of Ukraine and western Russia prevented germination and proper establishment on 30-40% of the planted acreage," says Keeney.

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