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Days of freezing temperatures may have harmed winter crops

A field of winter crops.
A field of winter crops. Source: ERR

Very cold temperatures and too little snow may have harmed winter crops, especially barley in some places in Estonia. Winter wheat and rye are more resilient.

Sandra Pärnpuu, agronomist for the Reinu-Einari Farm in Lääne County, told ERR that winter rape and barley are usually the most susceptible to cold, while winter wheat is expected to survive just fine. "When winter barley was first introduced in Estonia, it was said to survive at -10 and no colder. It could have been damaged after the temperature reading dropped to below -20 and by the cold wind."

The expert said that damage caused by extreme winter weather can be very changeable, depending on wind direction and strength, the location of the field and how strong the plants are going in. A thick layer of snow makes things easier on the crops, while very cold weather coupled with only a thin layer of snow could do in more fragile crops in just two or three days.

But Reine Koppel, senior research fellow for cereals and oil crops at the Center of Estonian Rural Research and Knowledge, said that in her 33 years in the field she remembers only one spring when all of winter crops, even the most resilient varieties, perished.

"There was a cold snap without any snow, she said, adding that winter crops usually manage to survive even in the most extraordinary conditions, being resistant to both snow and water.

"I would hold off on a nationwide panic at this time, while it's hard to be sure either because the cold snap has been quite long," she said.

Koppel added that the situation varies greatly in different parts of the country as some have seen night-time lows of -11 degrees, while others have had to endure -30 degrees. She said that winter rye is the most cold-resistant of the crops grown in Estonia.

She added that she believes winter crops will survive the cold. But the nearer it gets to spring, the weaker the plants will get and extreme weather in early March would be a much bigger problem.

The Reinu-Einari Farm lost an entire field's worth of crops to poor March weather just last year. Sandra Pärnpuu said that some winter losses occur every year.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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