Extreme Weather Conditions Hit European Vegetable Crops

For the third year in a row, Europe is experiencing a very hot summer and prolonged drought conditions, reports the Brussels-based European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors (PROFEL). Many agricultural areas have coped with a lack of rain since the beginning of May, with a number of the key vegetable growing regions facing a rainfall deficit of 200mm, when compared to average May and June precipitation.

In other parts of the continent crops have been damaged by excessive rain and severe hailstorms, followed by drought at the beginning of July. The winter lasted longer than normal and the spring was very wet, which led to delays in planting. The late planting has negatively impacted potential yields for a number of crops, and in many cases plant root systems were not adequately developed in time to face the dry weather.

Recent northeasterly winds, combined with high temperatures, compounded the problems caused by the drought by further increasing evaporation rates; and with little rain forecast during the coming weeks, there is a serious risk that drought will prevent some of the later sown vegetable crops from being planted.

The extreme weather conditions experienced around Europe can lead to losses in the fields in both quality and quantity. As consequence, the processing industry will face severe shortage in supplies in the coming period for all vegetable crops, according to PROFEL, a trade association that represents nearly 500 companies in 11 European countries producing frozen, canned and dehydrated vegetables, fruits and jams.

The Ispra, Varese, Italy-based European Drought Observatory (EDO) has mapped the current droughts in Europe, which may be viewed by visiting http://edo.jrc.ec.europa.eu/edov2/php/index.php?id=1052.  The division on the continent is quite clear, as the North is dealing with a drought while further to the South there has been too much precipitation. The situation is not expected to improve.

Farmers are already irrigating their crops, but many local or national policies around Europe prohibit the use of surface water for any purpose other than drinking water. Such measures directly impact arable crops, and this year, even in cases where it has been possible to irrigate, irrigation equipment has struggled to keep up with the water lost through evaporation, aggravated by the dry northeasterly winds.