Rain, cold topsoil slowing crop progress

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY – Unseasonable cold in addition to moderate rainfall in the nation’s midsection focused attention again on the weather in grain futures markets. Coupled with heightening tensions in Ukraine, the weather prompted wheat futures to make double-digit gains early Monday.

The corn market also received a jolt   on ideas too much precipitation may make fieldwork impossible this week in the Corn Belt, creating planting delays.

Early Monday Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis wheat futures at times were up close to 30c a bu. Corn futures were up about 5c, continuing to trade a few cents above key support at $5 a bu in the nearby May contract.

David Salmon, meteorologist at Weather Derivatives, said much of the Upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes regions will finish this week too wet for fieldwork.

 Cold through the Midwest was notable too, although Mr. Salmon contends it will not damage the winter wheat crop coming out of dormancy in some areas. Mr. Salmon said low temperatures in most of Kansas and Missouri and points north would range from 20 degrees in much of Nebraska and the northern third of Illinois to 25 degrees almost to the Oklahoma border this week.

As a result, soil temperatures through most of the Corn Belt remain below the needed levels for planting, which for corn is 50 degrees.

 In the excessively dry regions of Kansas and Nebraska, where hard red winter wheat is a key crop, drought conditions remain a major issue despite some weekend rainfall.

Mr. Salmon predicts crop ratings in those states are likely to decline further for a winter wheat crop already rated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as in the worst condition in over a decade.

He said the below-freezing night-time temperatures in hard red winter wheat growing areas were not likely to damage the crop, yet it would be impossible to fully assess any winterkill until the crop has developed further. The uncertainty has made the wheat futures market nervous nonetheless. 

Adding to weather worries, escalating tensions in Ukraine have cast doubts on whether the big wheat producer will be able to continue its grain exports. The Russian government has amassed a heavy troop presence close to the Russia-Ukraine border, which the Russian government has contended is there only for military exercises. Ukraine farmers have been less willing to sell grain because of a slide in Ukraine’s currency during the ongoing crisis.
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