AS we move into the Australian autumn and the lead up to the winter crop planting season, the northern hemisphere crop is emerging from its winter dormancy period and into the critical spring finishing phase.
In the northern hemisphere, the winter crops are generally grown at much higher latitudes than here in Australia.
As a result, winterkill is one of the biggest challenges facing the European and North American farmer.
Winterkill occurs when the crop is exposed to periods of extreme cold or rapid fluctuations in temperatures resulting in death to the crown of the plant.
Snow cover on fields can insulate the crop and mitigate cold and fluctuating temperatures. Lack of snow cover, on the other hand, increases the incidence of winterkill.
Reports emanating from Europe suggest that the crop has emerged from the winter relatively unscathed.
The snow melt is ahead of normal in many areas, the early spring rains have been beneficial and there is no evidence of moisture deficit at this stage of the season.
However, the early snow melt is still a concern as it can still turn cold and an exposed crop is still highly susceptible to damage, in the absence of a protective snow cover.
Crop ratings released last week pegged the French wheat crop at 92 per cent good to excellent. This compares to 93pc the previous week and 93pc for the same week last year.
The barley crop was rated 88pc good to excellent, compared to 90pc last week and 91pc for the same week last year.
If these conditions continue through the spring the French harvest will certainly be bigger than last year’s, which was adversely affected by a very dry spring.
In the Black Sea region the winter crop is reported to be in better condition than this time last year.
Unseasonably warm weather in February hastened the snowpack melt, accelerating the emergence from dormancy.
The area planted to winter crop across this region is also reported to have increased around one million hectares year-on-year, pushing current production estimates into record territory.
The wheat story in the United States (US) is a little mixed with the soft red winter (SRW) wheat regions in better general shape than the hard red winter (HRW) wheat regions.
Most of the SRW areas have received timely rains and been warmer than normal.
This has removed the snow cover earlier than usual and promoted early spring growth.
However, as in Europe, the spring is young and it can still turn cold again, potentially damaging an unprotected crop.
The HRW story is quite patchy with some states, such as Montana and Nebraska, travelling along nicely.
Conversely, further south in Kansas, the precipitation since the beginning of February sits at around 14pc of normal.
The good news is that the 14-day forecast is suggesting a wetter tone for much of the drier parts of the HRW belt.
This has certainly been reflected in both Kansas and Chicago wheat futures, which appear to have hit resistance levels as the steam goes out of any bad news crop story for the present time.
The same could be said of corn and soybean futures, where the big South American crops are just getting bigger and any moisture deficit areas in Argentina have been filled in with beneficial rains over the past month.
Bigger global crops and falling futures are not the story the Australian growers wants to hear.
Unfortunately, it is reality for the moment, but it is still early days for the northern hemisphere crop.
Maybe the Australian dollar will come to the rescue and continue its recent downward trend countering some of the overseas futures weakness.