Increased dryness affecting global crops

by Drew Lerner
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Atmospheric energy and moisture content in the Northern Hemisphere remains low following two years of La Niña. The resulting impact has been lackluster rainfall across portions of China, south-central Russia and now a part of the United States. Only the evolution of El Niño later this year may bring significant change, but until that event arrives, crops in these three key production areas in the world will remain teetering on the verge of notable dryness.

Dryness earlier this year was not only reported in crop areas of the United States, south-central Russia and a part of China, but it was occurring in Canada and Europe as well. In the past few weeks there has been a shift in rainfall patterns in both Canada and Europe bringing back notable amounts of rain and ending the drier biases. The expanding wetter bias in southeastern Europe is expected to push into south-central Russia, but probably not for a few more weeks. By the time the rain arrives in Russia’s Volga River Basin, it will be too late for a notable boost in spring wheat, sunseed, corn or soybean production potentials.

World Weather, Inc. believes the losses in south-central Russia already have been locked in due to some of the driest areas failing to get this year’s crops planted. Rain at any time in June or July will not lead to any new planting because it is so late in the season.

Dryness that had been locked into southeastern Europe for the latter half of last summer through early spring did break down in the past few weeks and soil conditions are much improved. Other parts of central, eastern and southwestern Europe also have been drier than usual in recent weeks, but changing weather patterns will favor a wetter environment for most of the European continent over the next few weeks, excluding Spain and Portugal, where dryness will prevail.

Canada is another place in the Northern Hemisphere where a dramatic change in rainfall patterns has occurred in recent weeks. Record-setting dryness in the Prairies spring wheat and canola production areas during the winter season has given way to record-setting two-month rain totals across the Prairies. Concern about dryness in March and April now has turned into fear of a third year in a row of production losses in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba because of too much rain and soggy field conditions. Nearly 3 million acres of crop may not get planted this year, but that is down from a figure nearly twice as great a year ago.

Rain in Canada’s Prairies will prevail through the heart of summer raising concern over wet weather diseases, grain quality issues and weediness, all of which might lead to lower production.

Both China and the U.S. grain and oilseed production areas will be teetering on the verge of some serious dryness during the next few weeks generating significant market interest.

World Weather, Inc. believes China’s situation will prevail into late June at which time a more favorable environment for timely rainfall may start. Some of the corn, peanuts, sunseed and soybean crops produced in the region already will have deteriorated enough to reduce yields and the distribution of rain in July and August will have much to say about the bottom line. The gradual evolution of El Niño later this summer should go a long way in bolstering rainfall later in the summer, but some irreversible production cuts may occur before that time arrives.

The United States also is facing continued borderline dryness issues in grain and oilseed production areas. The odds are high that dryness will be eased in a timely manner across many areas this summer. Rain will fall in a timely manner in the northern Plains spring wheat region. Most of the corn and soybean production areas in the nation will get just enough rain to avoid critical dryness and temperatures will not be nearly as hot as those of last year, all of which will point toward an acceptable production year with a few issues over dryness in the Plains and western Corn Belt.

The environment in many of these Northern Hemisphere production areas will appear quite tenuous for the next few weeks, but the odds do favor a break toward improvement before the growing season comes to an end.

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