Stressed Crops in Ukraine and Russia

Stressed Crops in Ukraine and Russia

Under the one-two punch of a dry fall and a frigid winter, winter crops in Ukraine were in poor condition in April and May 2006. This vegetation anomaly (difference from normal) image was created from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Widespread brown indicates that plants throughout the region had grown less compared to the average growth for 2000-2005. The Foreign Agricultural Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, estimated that only 10 metric tons of winter wheat, the primary crop growing here, would be harvested in July and August. That figure was down about 46 percent from the 18.7 metric tons harvested in 2005.

Why were winter crops in such rough shape? The biggest reason is drought. From August to October or November, depending on the location, little rain fell over the Ukrainian fields where winter grains were being planted, said the Foreign Agricultural Service. In Ukraine, roughly 42 million hectares of the total 60 million hectares is devoted to agriculture, and winter wheat and barley are among the most important crops. Planted in the fall, winter grains typically develop strong roots before going into dormancy with the onset of winter. During the winter, the crop is protected from the killing cold by an insulating layer of snow, and when the snow melts, the grain continues to grow until it is harvested in July and August. In 2005, the drought delayed planting, so the plants did not have time to develop strong root systems.

And then the cold hit. An unusual deep freeze gripped Eastern Europe in mid-January. Though little of the wheat crop was damaged, winter barely and rape seed were. The widespread impact of drought and cold is clear from the negative vegetation anomaly shown above.

All crop information cited in this caption is from the Foreign Agricultural Service. Links to the most recent crop report and general information about Ukrainian agriculture are provided below.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided by Inbal Reshef as part of the Global Agricultural Monitoring Project between NASA, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), and the University of Maryland.