KANSAS CITY — The last time the U.S. central and southern Plains were collectively wet as they have become recently was in the year 2010, and even then conditions were not as wet as they are now. A four-year drought has finally come to an end in many areas from Texas to Kansas and Colorado. Drought that was developing in the northern U.S. Plains, southeastern Canada’s Prairies and the upper U.S. Midwest this spring also has been put down to a sudden death. All of this change comes from three weeks of repetitive rainfall that has been well above average and expected to continue for a while longer.
The wetter bias has taken soil conditions that were rated short to very short in mid-April to a rating of adequate to excessive by mid-May. Water supply in Texas has been steadily improving and it will continue to improve into June, although a full restoration in West Texas reservoir levels is not likely until the end of winter 2016.
In the meantime, soil conditions have changed dramatically. Instead of commodity market trade and farmers worrying over dryness and lower yields in unirrigated land, worry has now shifted to it being too wet. Winter wheat is expected to suffer most from the environment that is quickly becoming too wet. The crop is now facing wet weather diseases from northern Texas into Kansas, and a projected wet weather bias into June is raising fear over grain quality problems and harvest delays. Wheat protein levels are suspected of declining, and that raises a larger level of concern over where to go next to find the best quality wheat if problems occur in the U.S. Central Plains into the harvest season.
China has had an outstanding wheat production season and it may have some better quality wheat than usual. Its bias recently has been toward well timed rain events and near-perfect soil temperatures promoting aggressive development and potential for above average yields. Winterkill was nearly non-existent, and the harvest season is predicted to be trending drier supporting good protein levels and higher-than-usual quality.
India suffered a great decline in wheat quality this spring when excessive rains fell from early March into the second week of April. Rain totals were far above average. and the wet bias reduced grain quality and hurt production in some states and parts of states. Weather conditions improved for the latter part of the harvest season, but the damage was done by then.
Europe and the western CIS have favorable small grain crops, but it has been cooler than usual in both regions at times this spring. The cool and often moist conditions may lead to yields not quite as high as usual, but the potential certainly lingers for high productivity if it can warm significantly soon.
Some of the warming needed to support better yields and quality wheat in Europe is expected to begin evolving in the last 10 days of May. During that period of time eastern Europe, western Russia, Ukraine and Belarus will see a notable period of warmer temperatures to help speed crops along in their development. Improved productivity is expected, but rain will develop soon after the warmer weather evolves, and that will have to be watched closely for a while to make sure a new grain quality issue does not evolve in that part of the world.
North Africa had a successful production year. Its harvest is going well and yields were suspected of being high.
Worry over Australia’s wheat production in 2015-16 is rising again because of the return of El Niño. Forecasters are expecting a moderately strong El Niño for later this year. If the forecast comes to fruition, there is likely to be a problem with dryness during reproduction. Wheat and barley yields may come tumbling lower from New South Wales if this year’s El Niño behaves as expected by many forecasters. Good wheat production will come from Western Australia this year, but that is only a part of the total production potential and good yields from there may not be enough to counter production from the eastern part of the nation.
Canada has its own set of problems, although its winter wheat crop in the southeast is expected to perform relatively well. A cold finish to May and beginning of June will slow crop development and will induce some periods of frost and freezes, but the majority of crops should survive the cold.
Canada’s spring wheat barley and oats produced in the Prairies already have been subjected to frequent frost and freezes, and the crops have not been emerged for very long. Cold weather at this time of year slows emergence and establishment, but it does not necessarily dictate falling production — at least not until the reproductive season arrives. Then it will become imperative that the cool weather abates.
Spring wheat in the northern U.S. Plains has been included in the wild transition in weather patterns in recent weeks. The region was classified to be in a moderate drought for a while early this spring. Portions of the Dakotas and Minnesota were all a part of the dryness that evolved during late autumn and winter. Dryness continued into early April, but conditions changed in the second half of April, and it has been rainy frequently during the month of May.
The moisture abundance in the U.S. Plains the past three weeks has been significant with areas running from very short moisture in mid-April to surplus moisture today. Water
supply has gone from dismally low to adequate, and is projected to get even greater in the next few weeks. Some areas in the Plains have reported three to more than six times the usual amount of May rainfall. The only exception has been in parts of Nebraska and Kansas where amounts have been more normal to more seasonably above average.
The northern U.S. spring wheat region and Canada’s Prairies wheat may have to carry the weight of 2015 wheat production if hard red winter wheat areas run into a problem with excessive moisture through the harvest season. However, Canada and the northwestern U.S. Plains are sitting on a possible problem of their own regarding moisture. Drought is expected to be a concern in parts of the Prairies this summer. Crops already are becoming a bit starved for moisture in parts of east-central and southeastern Alberta and west-central and southwestern Saskatchewan. The situation will need to be closely monitored.
The forecast for late May and June is almost a status quo outlook for North America. Additional rain of high frequency will occur in the central and southern Plains. Some of the rain will reach into the Dakotas and Minnesota at times, although that area is not expected to be as wet as it has been in the past three weeks. Continued wet weather in the central and southern Plains will help further ease low water supply, but it may seriously threaten the quality and production of winter grains.
In the meantime, recent weather in the U.S. southeastern states and parts of the eastern Midwest has been trending drier during the month of May. Some of the dryness will be eased into early June, but some dryness will continue and that may raise some interest for soybeans, corn and peanuts. The heart of the Midwest, however, will be favorably moist and warm for good corn and soybean production potentials.
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