KANSAS CITY — World weather issues continue to pop up with the latest large grain producer to join the long list of areas with potential production issues being Europe. Europe recently has experienced lighter-than-usual precipitation over an extended period of time and now that seasonal warming has kicked in, the continent’s soil moisture is quickly dropping below optimum levels.
Europe is just one more world grain and oilseed production area that either has or soon will be dealing with potential production issues. However, for now, the situation in Europe is not chronic and not necessarily destined for disaster. Even with that comment being made, though, there is still much concern about world grain and oilseed production for this 2022 Northern Hemisphere crop year because of tight world supply.
The war in Ukraine certainly has taken a bad situation and made it much worse. It is not unusual for a few places in the world to have trouble with grain and oilseed production in any given year. Normally, those few trouble spots of production are counter-balanced by good weather in other places of the world. However, South America’s trouble in this past growing season already tightened up the supply equation and then along came the Ukraine war.
There is still a considerable amount of worry over North America weather because of the coincidental weather anomalies associated with the 22-year solar cycle, a prolonged (multi-year) La Niña event and the negatively phased Pacific Decadal Oscillation. (PDO) These three features when combined usually present a real challenge for producers in at least a portion of North America and that challenge is normally spread out over a few years. Dryness already has been around in western North America since 2020. Changes have been occurring and will continue to occur, but not everyone is convinced the changes will be good.
First and foremost on the minds of producers, traders and food companies is the sudden problem of too much moisture in the far northern US Plains and eastern parts of Canada’s Prairies. A change was expected this year promoting wetter conditions, but the pattern has swung too far in the opposite extreme from last year’s drought, and now farmers cannot get into their fields to plant spring wheat, corn, oats, barley, canola or other early season crops. It is not too late, yet, but time is ticking away and planting delays that originally were expected to last into the middle of May are now expected to last into late May, and that seriously narrows the planting window for some crops and raises concern over production potentials as summer quickly approaches.
The wet bias in the far northern US Plains is mostly a North Dakota and northern Minnesota issue, but in Canada the situation is more serious with Southern Manitoba much too wet and eastern Saskatchewan quickly catching up on the same moisture surplus. Warmer temperatures in the next few weeks will help to speed along drying rates while it is not raining, but we are approaching that time of year when a ridge of high pressure is expected to evolve in the central United States. Once that ridge evolves, the jet stream will be forced to stay at high latitudes suggesting more rain in Canada’s eastern Prairies and parts of the far northern US Plains rather than less rain. That leaves some concern about the fate of this year’s planting, although most likely a break in the pattern will soon evolve.
In the meantime, the ridge of high pressure expected in the central United States is likely to become a festering feature that may rob moisture from the Great Plains and western Corn Belt and heat up the western Midwest. These trends may lead to crop moisture stress in the central United States and dryness could eventually become a threat to the western Midwest and Great Plains summer grain and oilseed production potential. Much of this is speculation, but the combined impact of the 22-year solar cycle, La Niña and negative PDO usually does create at least a threat of lower grain and oilseed production due to mid- and late-summer heat and dryness.
Concern about US hard red winter wheat production and central US summer grain and oilseed production has been in the forecast pipeline for many months. That expectation was already a big concern given the tight grain supply resulting from problems in South America earlier this year. But, planting delays threatening spring wheat, canola and corn planting in eastern Canada and North Dakota was not expected to be this significant and if the wet bias continues much longer it will have an influence on the bottom line for world grain supply.
Adding Europe’s drying trend into this mix of North America weather issues potentially expands the degree of significance that adverse weather might have on world grain supply. World Weather, Inc. is not expecting Europe dryness to be a festering issue through the entire growing season, but a close watch on this drying trend is needed because of the potential implications that would come from another major grain and oilseed area in the world coming up with a cut in production.
To make matters a little more interesting … east-central China is slipping into a short-term drying trend that matches a below-average precipitation bias that was advertised in our weather patterns of the past when the 22-year solar cycle was combined with persistent La Niña. China is due some drier weather after two years of unusually wet biased conditions. This near-term outlook for below-average precipitation does have some potential staying power with a northward shift in the drier biased condition possible as summer comes along.
Like Europe, China weather must be closely monitored this late spring and summer because of some potential for a regional dryness problem. That does not necessarily mean drought, but if weather is not ideal enough to create normal yields in Europe and/or China that food inflation situation could easily fester into a more serious potential threat to the world economy.