U.S. crop yield pressure to build in late June and July

by Drew Lerner
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U.S. crop yield pressure to build in late June and July
July likely will start building a little yield pressure on U.S. corn, sorghum and soybean production.

KANSAS CITY — July is lurking around the corner, and that likely will start building a little yield pressure on U.S. corn, sorghum and soybean production, especially if June finishes out with a drier bias — as it may. Subsoil moisture across the U.S. Midwest, Delta and southeastern states is still rated favorably, but with more limited rainfall expected in late June and warmer biased temperatures it will be difficult to prevent the soil from drying down and some crop stress from developing.

The summer promises to be very interesting from a spectator’s vantage, but for a trader or a producer much worry lies ahead. Market volatility already has been impressive at times, and the situation is likely to get a little more intense over the next few weeks as traders try to outguess Mother Nature.

It will be all about temperatures this year. It has been proven in the past that crops can handle a drier biased year if the temperatures are seasonable or even slightly cooler than usual. However, this summer is expected to be warmer biased with July leading the way. The heat will keep evaporation rates running high, and that will make it difficult to get enough rainfall to keep soil moisture from declining below optimum levels.

Some mid-summer help is expected from the southwestern U.S. monsoon season. This pattern draws tropical moisture northward out of Mexico and into the Rocky Mountain region. The moisture eventually will be dragged through the northern Plains and into the northern and eastern Midwest, but not before the second half of July and in August. Relief is possible to dryness at that time, but until then the favorable subsoil moisture that is present today slowly will be diminished, raising crop stress, especially during the periods of significant warmth.

Not all of the outlook is doom and gloom. Hard red winter wheat has been working hard to regain a little protein in the latter days of development, and recent drier and warmer weather has helped somewhat. The growing season in the U.S. Plains likely will be drawn to a close a little quicker than usual by temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s Fahrenheit during most days over the next two weeks and many extreme highs pushing up over 100 degrees.

Heat and dryness in the central and southern Plains will have irrigation demand running strong, and that might start drawing down on water supply from the Ogallala Aquifer — a huge underground natural water reservoir in the Great Plains that was drawn down significantly during the multi-drought years earlier this decade. Some recovery in the water supply has occurred recently, but not back to where it needs to be, and that worry will remain for many more years.

A quick harvest of winter wheat will be the biggest positive benefit from the next few weeks of hot and dry weather in the central and southern Plains. Soft wheat in the Midwest will also experience improving wheat filling and maturation conditions with early harvesting to come quickly.

In the meantime, north of the U.S. border weather conditions this spring have been almost ideal. Areas that had been too dry in the Prairies last winter and early this spring have received some needed rain to support aggressive crop development. This trend is expected to continue through most of the summer. The biggest concern for the Prairies producers will be over a possible wet harvest this late summer and early autumn.

Winter wheat conditions in Ontario and Quebec improved greatly in recent weeks, and the crop is poised to perform well over the next few weeks. Some of the improvement is badly needed following a very wet and cool start to the growing season.

Another area in the world dealing with wet and cool biased small grain and oilseed conditions is Europe. Flooding that was reported in parts of France, Germany and northern Italy earlier this year damaged a few fields. The biggest problem has been over wet weather disease and reducing crop quality. This is the rapeseed harvest season, and too much rain already has delayed some of the fieldwork. Additionally, there has been some chatter about some oilseed quality declines.

No extended period of dry and warm weather has been advertised for Europe during the next few weeks. A cooler and wetter biased pattern will remain in many central and southern portions of the continent. Warmer temperatures in portions of the continent will help to induce faster drying rates, but they may not prevail long enough to sustain the improving trend for very long. That may leave small grains vulnerable to a further quality decline.

Western portions of the Commonwealth of Independent States also have been wetter biased at times in the past few weeks. The ground has begun to firm up in some areas where soil conditions have improved the most.

Dryness is not advertised to be much of a threat to winter or spring crops in Europe or the western CIS. However, there may be some negative impact on yields if it stays too wet and cool.

One of the best regions of potential small grain production potential is in eastern China. The environment has been almost ideal all growing season, and the trend was expected to continue over the next few weeks. Wheat harvesting has begun, and it will advance around periods of rainfall. Dryness has come and gone frequently in the North China Plain this year, but timely rain always has occurred in time to support crops. A drier bias will soon be needed in eastern China to help expedite harvesting and to assure a quick transport of harvested grain to ports and the marketplace.

In the meantime, corn, soybeans, groundnuts, sorghum, rice, cotton and other crops in China are in mostly good condition.

India’s winter crop harvest was notably reduced this year because of dry and warm weather from reproduction into the filling stages of development. India’s focus right now remains on summer crop planting and establishment as the monsoon performs erratically. Improving rainfall is expected during the latter part of June, and crops should come along and perform relatively well. A boost in rainfall is forthcoming in the next few weeks that will seriously bolster soil moisture.

Australia has experienced the best planting conditions in many years, and a huge wheat and barley crop is likely to emerge with the help of La Niña.

Argentina is a bit behind on its summer crop harvest, and that has slowed wheat planting and establishment. The nation will be dry over the next two weeks, but cold temperatures will restrict drying rates keeping the harvest pace a little sluggish. Wheat planting eventually will get completed, and emergence and establishment may be a little sluggish because of predicted cooler than usual temperatures at times during the winter.

Mexico winter wheat harvesting has advanced quickly and should abate soon. An extended period of dry weather in recent weeks has helped to mature crops and assure quick harvesting.

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