La Nina weather
Conditions cannot change quickly enough to allow La Niña much influence on Northern Hemisphere wheat production in 2016.

KANSAS CITY — Rapidly changing atmospheric conditions are expected around the world in the next 90 days, ending this year’s impressive El Niño event and allowing La Niña to evolve. However, conditions cannot change quickly enough to allow La Niña much influence on Northern Hemisphere wheat production in 2016.

Fingers will be pointing in all directions blaming weather adversity on El Niño, La Niña and the quick transition from one phase of ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) to another. However, the truth of the matter is that weather in the next few months will have the greatest influence on Northern Hemisphere small grain production, and by the time La Niña settles in and starts driving the world’s weather, wheat will be maturing and being harvested from many production areas.

Emergence of weather anomalies

A typical variety of weather anomalies will take place over the next few months that will bolster small grain production in some areas and cut it lower in other areas, but that is rather normal for any year. Some impressive weather trends already have been noted, and a few more are feared in the next few months, but just what are the expectations for 2016?

India’s harvest is well under way, and production cuts are expected because of reduced area planted and a long warmer and drier-than-usual weather trend since planting occurred last October. India irrigates nearly 91% of its wheat, but the crop this year is going to be smaller because of the warmer and drier biases that dominated the growing season. Weather conditions in the remaining weeks of this year’s harvest will not be anomalous enough to induce further harm in its quality. Fieldwork will conclude by the end of May.

Pakistan and many Middle East nations experienced greater-than-usual precipitation at times this last winter and spring to help lift wheat yields. The change came after a relatively dry start to the growing season resulting in some potential declines in production. Turkey and North Africa both experienced the trend of dryness early in the autumn planting season followed by well distributed rainfall during the heart of winter and on into the first weeks of spring. Morocco is the one nation in North Africa that is still expecting a small production year, despite some mid-winter weather improvements.

Improved wheat in Russia, China?

Southern Russia and Ukraine production will be very interesting this year. Many analysts projected small production in 2016 because of the dismal rain distribution that occurred in late summer and autumn 2015. The situation for planting, emergence, and establishment was poor, but most crops did eventually emerge, and the lack of winterkill this year has those crops perhaps a little underdeveloped but with tremendous potential for improvement. Wheat has proven itself as a resilient crop under adverse conditions. Winter crops are greening up and developing slowly in an environment that has either been very wet or will become that way. The cool and moist environment will lead to improved tillering this spring, and that may lead to a surprisingly great number of favorably yielding crops. New tillering will not be subjected to much weather adversity, and that may translate into better production potentials.

China has had phenomenally good weather during the planting and establishment season last autumn. Well-timed rainfall and seasonable temperatures allowed the crop to establish favorably, and a lack of weather extremes during the winter brought the crop out of dormancy in a favorable manner. Significant rain fell during mid-April, further enhancing the favorable production environment. Yield potentials may be notably high in portions of the production region.

The combined improved wheat in China, southern Russia and Ukraine may force some analysts to rethink some of the production potentials. Only reduced planted acres will work against the production bottom line.

In addition to the durum wheat production concerns in Morocco and eastern Spain this year there is concern that a reduction in spring wheat acreage in Canada and the northern U.S. Plains will work against production. However, wheat is durable and may experience a few bouts of timely rain in the next few weeks to support favorable yields. With that said, there is concern about prevailing dryness in the southwestern Prairies today and in a part of the northwestern U.S. Plains.

U.S. weather improving

U.S. weather actually has been improving over the past couple weeks. No single event was more important to hard red winter wheat production areas than the rain event of April 15-18. Rain totals of 2 to more than 7 inches occurred as the result of slow-moving storm systems. The rains transformed many struggling wheat fields into utopias of abundant moisture. Only the western Texas Panhandle missed out on the rainfall, and prior to the middle of May most of the production areas were notably dry with moisture deficits varying from 1 to more than 3 inches. All of the deficits are gone except in the southwest Plains where rainfall was limited.

A new potential problem, wet weather disease, is evolving in hard red winter wheat country. Wheat becomes more susceptible to surplus moisture as it moves toward reproduction. Wet weather diseases are a possible threat to this year’s crop because of anticipated follow-up rain that may be persistently great enough to make the environment more favorable for such conditions. The situation will be closely monitored over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, Canada’s spring wheat acreage may shrink because of a huge campaign to plant pulse crops, with lentils leading the way because of their lower world supply situation. Weather in the Prairies will not be very good early this spring, but World Weather, Inc. believes conditions will improve with more timely rainfall during the heart of the planting, emergence and establishment periods of crop growth.

Favorable moisture conditions are present in the U.S. Pacific Northwest right now and with plenty of runoff potential from significant snow in the mountains. Eastern Canada’s wheat is very slow in evolving this season due to very late snow melt and a recent past week of quite cold and 
snowy weather.

Issues with snow

A similar abundance of snow cover and resulting moisture abundance will prevail across northern Russia in the next few weeks. The wetter bias has been present in much of the western CIS and in parts of Europe, and these trends likely will continue. World Weather, Inc. believes a cool and wet bias will continue across a large part of the European continent this spring and summer. The cool and wetter bias may result in slower crop development and maturation rates later this spring and summer. Similar to the U.S. central Plains there will be concern over the potential for wet weather diseases.

In the Southern Hemisphere, small grain crops have not been planted but will be in the next few weeks. Early indications suggest La Niña will offer some favorable conditions in Australia and South Africa while Argentina might dry out in the spring taking a part of southern Brazil with it.