February 8, 2018 / 4:01 PM / a year ago

EU wheat protected by snow cover but deep frosts in Germany eyed

* Snow protects EU wheat from deep frosts

* Concern in some areas if cold snap continues

HAMBURG, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A blanket of snow has protected wheat and other grain crops in major European producers from a dramatic cold snap this week, but double-digit frosts are causing concern in Germany, experts said on Thursday.

In France, the EU’s biggest grain producer, plants were not expected to have suffered significant damage from torrential rain since December or cold weather this week.

Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures have caused massive disruption to transport in France this week.

But frosts were not severe enough to threaten damage, especially for areas covered by snow.

“Our resistance calculations show damage is possible when temperatures fall below minus 10 degrees (Celsius), but at the moment there are only very rare cases of such temperatures without snow cover,” Jean-Paul Bordes of French crop institute Arvalis said, referring to winter cereals.

The cold spell may also be beneficial in slowing the rapid development of some crops, particularly rapeseed, following a mild winter so far.

France experienced its warmest January on record, with average temperatures 3 degrees above the seasonal norm.

Waterlogged fields could pose a bigger risk to French crops, with the possibility of plant roots being damaged and nutrients such as nitrogen fertiliser being lost.

Excess moisture could be a risk for rapeseed crops in chalky soils that drain less well, oilseed institute Terres Inovia said.

In the second largest grain producer Germany, worries focused on frosts that reached minus 10 degrees Celsius and below, hitting wheat fields already waterlogged after the wet start to the winter.

“I do not think significant damage has been suffered so far as the main areas with deep frosts also had snow,” one German analyst said. “But if the frosts continue there could be more cause for concern.”

In Poland, fields in the north have suffered waterlogging but crops in the rest of the country look safe, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“In recent days, frost in Poland has not been that deep as in Germany, and it is likely to be warmer in the days ahead,” said Sabaranski, adding that the thin snow cover was a worry if temperatures fall.

Cereal crops in Britain are in generally good health with some fields too wet to work at the moment but no widespread problems with flooding.

“They (cereal crops) are just waiting for warm weather now before they start their growth phase,” said analyst Sarah Wynn of crop consultants ADAS. (Reporting by Michael Hogan, Valerie Parent and Nigel Hunt, editing by David Evans)

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