Martell: Abnormal Heat Continues in the U.S. Heartland

March 19, 2012 04:49 AM

The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of

Abnormal Heat Continues in the U.S. Heartland

Summer-like heat has continued in the Midwest causing afternoon temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s F. Nights have been cooling into the 50s F. Daily mean temperatures are running 30-35 F above normal, more typical of early June than mid March.

The normal starting date for Midwest corn planting is more than a month off. Already, soil temperatures are well above the 50 F threshold for germination, even the deep soil layer 4- 16 inches below the surface.

Soil Temps 4 16 Inches Deep

Is it global warming? There is very cold air in the Northern Hemisphere, but it is located the opposite side of the world in Russia, Kazakhstan and Northeast China. Corn planting on the China’s Manchurian Plain is due to begin in another 4 weeks, but night temperatures of - 5 -10 F occurred last week.

The U.S. hard red winter wheat crop is 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule developmentally, as jointing is already well under way in the Southwest Great Plains. Growers worry about potential freeze damage, if the weather should suddenly turn sharply colder. A hard freeze in the flowering-booting stage causes irreversible damage in wheat, killing pollen and leaving grain heads blank.

Three years ago 54% of Oklahoma wheat was lost in an April 9 freeze under similar circumstances with advanced development from a warm winter-early spring.

Russia Spring Grain Planting Delays Anticipated From Deep Snow and Cold

Persistent cold and deep snow is expected to delay the Russia spring grain planting campaign especially the Volga District where deep snow and cold weather is still occurring. This may have a negative impact on spring crops. Spring grain production, primarily wheat, makes up 50-55% of the national grain harvest.

Russia Volga Cold

Minimum temperatures last week fell to -10 to -15 F on, March 13. Temperatures have moderated since then, but remained below freezing as additional snow developed later in the week. The snow cover is more than 12 inches deep.

Volga spring grains are produced in northern latitudes, 48-52 degrees N, where the growing season is relatively short. The best outcomes in spring grain production almost always occur with timely seeding in the spring. Typically Volga grains are sown in early May. This insures sufficient heat units for safe maturity, before the first fall freeze, while also improving grain quality. With shortening daylight hours in the fall, dampness causes mold.

Strange Weather Dynamics Continue in South America Soybeans

Very strange weather continues in South America, Argentina getting frequent, heavy rains, while southern Brazil keeps with a hot and dry pattern.

The Argentina soybean belt has received 4-6 inches of rainfall in the recent 2 weeks, southern Brazil, virtually none. March temperatures in Brazil’s southern farm state Rio Grande do Sul have frequently been in the upper 90s F.

Arg Brazil Rainfall contrast

It is not surprising that Brazil soybean production estimates have been trailing steadily lower, as drought has worsened in March. Most soybean production estimates in Brazil are clustering near 68 million metric tons. That compares to 75.50 million metric tons (MMT) last season (a record). The USDA Brazil soybean export estimate given in March was 14.73 MMT, compared to 21.2 MMT in the 2011-12 marketing year.

Europe Wheat Production Projected Lower on Drought and Winterkill

News of reduced wheat prospects in Europe hit the market last week. The European 27-member Union is the world’s largest wheat growing area with the biggest production. Strategie Grains a Paris analysis group has projected the new EU-27 wheat harvest including durum at 139.5 MMT. That still would still be slightly bigger than last season, but is down 2 MMT from a previous estimate one month ago.

Winterkill is suspected to have occurred France and Germany from a bitter February cold wave. Now that growth has resumed with warming temperatures, freeze damage in wheat has been revealed.

Worsening drought is another big concern for the new wheat harvest in 2012. Very dry conditions are most pronounced in Western Europe, the drought now entering its 7th week. France and Germany, the top 2 wheat growers, have received only 40-50% of normal moisture in the period. Also very dry is the United Kingdom, the 3rd largest wheat producing country. Southern Spain, a key durum area, is experiencing historic drought, the last significant rain occurring in November.

Ongoing drought, if it continues, would drag production still lower. The new forecast in Europe this week continues dry.




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