Hungary: Update on the impact of adverse spring weather on agricultural and horticultural crops

Periodic frosts and an ongoing drought are affecting crops all over Hungary - How extensive is the damage? What will this mean for farmers?

Plum tree flowers covered in ice
©Myriams-Fotos

Hungarian fruit growers have reported spring frost damages from all regions. After Easter and by the middle of April around 4,000 hectares have been affected according to the Government Offices in the Great Plain counties that were most affected (Bács-Kiskun, and Csongrad). The deadline for compensation registration is May 17 so it will take time to get the final figures. Last year 27.000 hectares (25%) of orchards were affected by frost damage and €18.2 million was paid as compensation to fruit growers.

Blooming fruit trees suffered this year again from severe frost 

Frost damage occurs in general when the temperature drops to -2°C or less, measured at 2 meters height. According to fruit growers, there is usually a certain amount of damage at around - 3°C during the full bloom of apricots, but in petal fall phase damage occurs already at -1°C.

The cold temperatures of -6 to -10°C in March caused damage in apricot orchards mainly in areas where blooming was advanced. In early April however, when temperatures dropped several times as low as -6 to -9°C, the frost had an impact not only on the flowers of apricots and peaches but also on the bursting buds of pome trees. Nearly 90-100% fruit loss is expected for apricots this year at most locations, but the actual yield prediction is expected to come out in late May.

In Transdanubia and the Great Plain regions apple and pear trees faced moderate to severe (50-80%) damage depending on varieties.  In the north-east region of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county apples, plums and sour cherries had less observable damage since these trees had not been in the sensitive stage yet due to the colder weather there.  

Field crops need more rain

Spring drought affects the whole country, and cultivation work is complicated on the parched soil. The amount of rainfall in the past two months was 20-35 mm, which is below the long-term average. A smaller deficit was recorded in the southern and north-eastern regions due to the rains in April, but Northern Hungary and the Great Plains received less than 5 mm rain in March. Winter crops like cereals or oilseed rape require more precipitation in tillering growing stage. Over the past two years the lack of rain around the end of winter resulted in significant loss of oilseed rape crop.

Fortunately, a good amount of rain (10-25mm) arrived after Easter to the north-eastern and eastern part of the country, but western and central regions received just a smaller amount (5-15mm). Therefore, the top layer of soil remained dry in these areas. If the moisture content of the upper 20 cm of the soil is less than 40% it is considered critical for the germination of seeds. Agronomists expect even more rain in April since it is essential for the proper seedbed preparation and the sowing of maize.

No wonder that farmers are now anxiously watching the weather forecast, as last year the weather situation was similar to the one we’re facing this year. In 2020, oilseed rape did not produce enough lateral branches due to the drought, so the average yield fell significantly although this crop did well on the markets. Farmers became more optimistic this year because the rain in April reduced soil moisture shortage and hopefully they can avoid yield loss at harvest. We will keep you updated on this issue.

(See our previous article on this year’s frost damages here. More info on frost damages in 2020 here.)

Sources: agrarszektor.hu, Agrokúti Kft., Fruitweb, agronaplo.hu

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