Rain relief comes and goes leaving drought conditions firmly in place

KANSAS CITY — A brief spat of needed rain brought relief to the northern U.S. Plains and southern Canada’s Prairies dryness shortly before mid-month. The moisture was celebrated by nearly everyone, but it came and went a little too fast, and the amount of relief was limited for some areas. That leaves drought conditions firmly in place even though some areas received enough rain to stimulate a little improvement in crop and field conditions.

The drought in portions of the northern Plains and southern Saskatchewan has been deemed the most significant since 1988, but it has not expanded nearly as much as it had in 1988. On June 11, 1988, severe to extreme drought covered most of the interior western United States, the northern Plains, including Minnesota, and from northern Alabama and northern Georgia to southern Ohio. Moderate drought covered many other Midwestern crop areas.

The situation on June 11, 2017, was not nearly so gloomy. However, drought was quite serious in central and eastern Montana and west-central and southwestern North Dakota into north-central South Dakota. The area of extreme dryness in the northern Plains was about one-third smaller than that of 1988, and there is no dryness in the Midwest, interior southeastern states or the far western states. The prospects for a repeat of the 1988 event is quite small outside of the areas still being impacted with drought. However, for the areas being impacted, obviously, the situation is much more of a concern.

Even though the situation is quite different from that of 29 years ago, the impact from a hard red wheat perspective is more unique. Central U.S. Plains hard red winter wheat production in 2017 will suffer from a second year of poor protein levels. The situation is not as serious as that of 2016, but good quality high protein domestic wheat has become a little less abundant because of last year’s failings. Now that drought is affecting the northern U.S. Plains hard spring wheat production areas, there may be a further decline in domestic high quality wheat. The drought also is affecting some of the durum wheat production prospects, although there is still a good chance that Canada crops will squeeze out a favorable crop due to better subsoil moisture than that in the northern Plains.

World weather not as bad

The interest in U.S. wheat is occurring at the same time there is still a world glut of wheat, and weather conditions in other major production areas around the world are not so bad. There is some concern about small grain plantings in Western Australia where rainfall has been quite limited this planting season. Cooler-than-usual ocean water temperature northwest of Australia has been blamed for reducing precipitation across the key production areas of both Western and South Australia. However, New South Wales, Victoria and the far southeastern corner of South Australia received good rain in April and May, and crop prospects are very good there. Western Australia and South Australia only need one or two significant rain events in the next few weeks to get this year’s crops planted and back into a favored production position, although no such rain event is likely into late June.

Rain relief comes and goes leaving drought conditions firmly in place

Argentina wheat planting has begun and will accelerate over the next few weeks. Its area planted also is expected to shrink like that of so many other areas because of the weak prices and abundance for cereal grains in world storage.

Much of the European Union and western Commonwealth of Independent States crop areas are expecting a favorable production year. France may still be vulnerable to some lower yields if timely rainfall does not occur in the next few weeks. France has had much better weather than that of 2016, but production may still be a little off in parts of the nation because of less than ideal weather. Conditions elsewhere in Europe, however, have been mostly good except a few areas in Spain that have dealt with dryness for a while.

Russia has had some very wet weather at times this spring, and temperatures have not warmed well in some areas. The result may have some fields weedier than usual, and crop development may be a little behind the usual pace. There is some worry over wet weather disease issues as well, although the lack of consistently warm weather has likely minimized the disease issue — for now. Production from Russia and most of Europe is expected to be high barring no serious change in weather.

Ukraine has been trending a little dry recently, but it, too, has failed to see persistent warmer-than-usual conditions. That has conserved soil moisture and protected production. There is need for timely rainfall in the next few weeks as reproduction continues to expand. Most likely with the cool weather prevailing for a while longer there should be a continuation of moisture conservation, and that should help production in a favorable manner by staving off any serious dryness issues until crops are done reproducing and beginning to fill and mature. There is still some potential for a negative impact due to dryness, but the later it gets in this month without serious dryness the lower the impact of dryness in July.

Dealing with dryness issues

Outside of North America there are not very many areas that have dealt with extremely dry conditions this season. The northern U.S. Plains and southern Saskatchewan will come up short on production this year, but the impact on a world scale may not be very great unless other areas of serious adversity evolve soon.

China had a good winter crop production year, and so did India. That leaves Western Australia and perhaps parts of France as the primary problem areas, and quite honestly that is not enough to tighten up the bottom line very seriously.

In the meantime, the prospects for summer coarse grain and oilseeds around the world are still quite favorable. U.S. Midwest weather is far removed from drought, although it will experience some drying later in the year that will raise some stress to corn and soybeans, but a 1988-style drought is mostly out of the potential.

China may run into some east-central grain and oilseed dryness issues this summer, but only about three provinces are expected to be impacted. The remainder of the nation will experience good weather and seed good corn, soybean, groundnut and other crop production potential. India’s monsoon is expected to perform better than that seen in at least three years, and that will assure good grain and oilseed production. Unless something changes immediately there will not be many problems across Europe or the western CIS.

There is no sense hoping for an El Niño event to come and save the day and push production down and futures prices up. Most forecasters continue in good agreement that El Niño is not a likely prospect before the Northern Hemisphere growing season of 2017 comes to an end.