Early Freeze Could Nip Crops

August 23, 2013 09:36 PM
Early Freeze Could Nip Crops

Late-planted crops in the High Plains could be at most risk

The majority of the Corn Belt escaped the pollination period unscathed, but late planting in some patches leaves corn—and soybean—crops highly vulnerable to an early freeze this fall.

"The bottom line is that we’re in a good situation with temperatures," said Jeffrey Doran, a senior meteorologist with Planalytics, at an agribusiness weather seminar in St. Louis.

Drought, hurricanes and worldwide volcanic eruptions can also affect U.S. crop maturity

Unfortunately, cold and wet spring conditions forced many farmers to shelve planting. Crop maturities are delayed by an average of two to four weeks. "We’ve dealt with some growing degree challenges," Doran added.

Satellite maps measuring biomass show that the regions farthest behind are southeast Minnesota, north-central Iowa and eastern North Dakota. "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 continental 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. Planalytics’ soybean estimate of 42.3 bu. per acre is only 2.2 bu. below the June USDA 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 yield projection for Kansas.

"Nebraska is the most vulnerable to spreading drought," according to a biweekly yield report. "Drought stress will take its toll on corn if rains do not arrive."

Soybeans are more resilient so the threat of a widening drought isn’t as big of a concern. 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 deteriorate quickly. "If we get another winter with very little moisture, things could spiral very badly," he added.

You can e-mail Boyce Thompson at bthompson@farmjournal.com.

To keep up with the latest weather and news, visit www.agweb.com/weather

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