* Mild weather pulls down energy demand
* Wet conditions result in bigger hydro power reserves
* But farmers fear third wet winter will hit revenues
* Winter flooding a threat to farms
By Henning Gloystein and Sarah McFarlane
LONDON, Sept 5 A predicted mild and wet winter
might save Europe from the worst impact of a potential Russian
gas supply disruption, but it would mean another difficult
season for farmers who have already suffered from two
consecutive wet years.
Russia is Europe's biggest supplier of natural gas, and its
gas pipelines through Ukraine are currently the subject of
political manoeuvring as Europe and Moscow clash over the crisis
Russia's state-controlled gas giant Gazprom meets
around a third of Europe's gas demand, worth some $80 billion a
year, and it sends almost half of these supplies via Ukraine
Should Russia cut exports to Europe in the middle of winter,
much will depend on how much gas the region has in storage to
get it through the cold months.
So far, the weather has played out in favour of European
energy consumers, and the outlook is also promising.
"Early winter could get rather wet and mild," said
meteorologist Georg Mueller.
Much of western Europe has already experienced one of its
warmest and wettest January to August periods.
"January to August is the warmest (with respect to mean
temperature) and wettest such period in our records," Britain's
Met Office told Reuters.
The mild weather and low demand this year have allowed
Europe's utilities to stock more gas than in previous years,
which they hope will help them get through the upcoming high
demand winter heating season should Russian flows to Europe be
interrupted because of upheaval in Ukraine.
European storage facilities are filled to almost 90 percent,
holding 73 billion cubic metres (bcm), equivalent to over 15
percent of Europe's annual demand.
The mild winter, spring and summer of 2013/14 reduced energy
demand, leading to a 25 percent fall in wholesale natural gas
prices and a 15 percent slump in coal prices.
Continuing this year's trend, Europe looks set to experience
a mild start to the winter, with September, October and November
likely to be warmer than average in Britain and most of
continental Europe, according to U.S. weather specialists
Weather Services International (WSI).
Should the coming winter be mild and wet, as expected, gas
stocks would last longer due to low demand and water levels to
feed hydropower plants in the Nordic and Alpine regions would be
fuller due to rainfall.
POOR QUALITY CROPS
Yet what is good for Europe's energy users may not be so
welcome for the region's farmers.
Farmers in western Europe will be predominantly planting
their winter crops in September and October, with winter wheat
the most commonly grown grain in the region.
"The mild is no problem. The wet is a problem if it stops
the farmers getting onto the ground to sow," said James
Dunsterville, an analyst with AgFlow in Geneva.
"If it rains solidly you can't actually get machines onto
the land to plant winter grains, which happened in the UK two
years ago, hence we then had a big spring barley crop (and a
smaller winter wheat crop)," he added.
The wet weather two years ago disrupted British winter crop
planting, resulting in the lowest wheat output in a decade.
And the weather pattern was repeated in 2013/2014, when
Britain experienced the wettest December and January on record,
resulting in widespread flooding and damage to farmlands, which
forced the government to open a fund to assist farmers.
Another wet winter this year would affect an already
difficult year for many crop growers in continental Europe.
France, which is the EU's top wheat grower and exporter,
caused a ripple in grain markets in August after importing
milling wheat to mix with its unusually poor-grade crop caused
by heavy rains.
(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney; editing by Keiron