Pollination season is shaping up fine. But early freezes could imperil some late-planted crops.
The Corn Belt may escape the pollination season unscathed, but late planting in some patches leaves corn crops highly vulnerable to an early fall freeze.
That was the long-term agricultural forecast presented this week by Jeffrey Doran, a senior meteorologist with Planalytics, at an agribusiness weather seminar in St. Louis.
"The bottom line is that we’re in a good situation with temperatures," said Doran, noting that most of the Corn Belt is well into a pollination season that’s shaping up much better than last year’s. "We don’t see many more weather stresses for the remainder of pollination season."
Unfortunately, cold and wet spring conditions forced many farmers to delay planting. Crop maturities have been delayed by an average of 2 to 4 weeks. "We’re dealing with some growing degree challenges," Doran said. "The question is will the crop get to maturity in time?"
Satellite maps measuring biomass show that the regions farthest behind are southeast Minnesota, north-central Iowa and eastern North Dakota, where by July 14 crops had yet to "green up" like the rest of the Corn Belt. "This late acreage will be relevant once we get to mid-September and early October, when there is potential for early freezes," Doran said.
The U.S. could be looking at colder-than-normal temperatures during the fall harvest season. The dominant weather pattern, Doran said, is a cold front pushing down from Alaska, through Canada and into the Midwest. Cooler temperatures are also resulting from high volcanic activity in Asia. Eruptions pump more volcanic particles into the jet stream, reducing solar radiation.
Despite the potential danger, Planalytics’ satellite-derived forecast currently indicates a corn yield of 152.4 bu. per acre, only 3.1 below USDA’s June estimate of 156.5 bu. Its soybean estimate of 42.3 bu. per acre is only 2.2 bu. below USDA’s June estimate.
Though Planalytics recently raised its forecast for eight of the top 10 corn and soybean states, there is concern that drought might be spreading from the West. The firm recently dropped its corn projection for Kansas. "Nebraska is the most vulnerable to spreading drought," according to its latest bi-weekly yield report. "Drought stress will start taking its toll if rains do not arrive in the coming days."
Soybean crops are less of a concern because of their resilience. However, the Planlaytics report said, "Concerns about dryness are mounting in many fields in western and northern Illinois and central Indiana."
Planalytics is calling for another season of unusually high hurricane activity this year, which might be good for Southwest crops if storms reach that region. In the meantime, the biggest problem in agriculture is in the western High Plains. "That’s not going away—it will linger into the short term," Doran said.
Unless California gets some rain this year, conditions could go south quickly. "If we get another winter with very little moisture, things could spiral very badly," Doran said.