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Martell: Heat Stress Intensifies in Argentina

06:10AM Feb 21, 2012

The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of

Heat Stress in Argentina Corn Worsens Production Outlook

Exceptionally hot summer temperatures in Argentina's corn belt is expected to shrink the yield, producing a harvest of 20 to 20.5 million metric tons (MMT) and worse than last year's 22.5 MMT harvest. The Argentina agriculture ministry issued its first forecast for corn predicting production in a range from 20.5 to 22 MMT. Growing conditions this summer have been hotter and drier than 2010-11, arguing for production near the low end of the Ministry's range.

RioCuarto Max Temps

Rio Cuarto in western Cordoba, a key corn area, recorded 36 days over 90 F and 4 days above 100 F since early December. A major portion of corn was pollinating under heat-wave conditions. Unseasonal heat has persisted into February, keeping stress on corn and causing premature ripening. Late-planted corn would be in the grain filling stage in February.

Farmers planted a record area of corn, but a significant portion of the crop has been irreversibly damaged by drought and will be grazed out or cut for silage, perhaps 15-20% of the planted area. The USDA corn area for harvest estimate seems too optimistic, identical to last year, despite a worse drought.

The USDA 2011-12 corn estimate at 22.50 MMT s is close to last year’s 23 MMT harvest. We believe prospects are worse from more intense heat and dryness, suggesting corn production 20- 20.5 MMT and near the low end of the Ministry's range of estimates.

Worrisome Drought in Canadian Prairies

A 6-month drought has reduced field moisture in the Canadian prairies, a potential threat to crop production in 2012. The 3 prairie provinces Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba produce more than 95% of Canada grains and oilseeds.

Canada drought

Northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan have received only 25 – 50 millimeters (1-2 inches) of precipitation since September 1. This represents a 3-5 inch precipitation moisture deficit.

Normally winters are rather dry on the prairies. This year was no exception. What is unusual was an incredible long dry stretch in 2011 beginning in July and continuing through into the winter, in which hardly any precipitation was received. Growers claimed that warm sunny conditions in September-October were ideal for grain drying and harvesting. However, it was the beginning of a prolonged drought.

Precipitation since September was less than 60% of normal over large swaths of the Canadian prairies. The northwestern grain belt and Manitoba were even drier, receiving under 40% of normal moisture:

A wet spring would go a long way toward easing drought. For this to occur, the La Nina effect must rapidly disappear.

Canada’s main export crops are wheat, rapeseed and barley. Domestic consumption is relatively small compared to production, allowing for large exports of grains and oilseeds.

Canada is the world’s 4th top exporter of oilseeds (rapeseed), behind the United States, Brazil and Argentina (soybeans).

Canada, Australia and Russia vie for 3rd place in global wheat exports behind the United States and European Union.

Texas Wheat Potential Still Poor Despite Recent Rain

U.S. hard red winter wheat is benefiting from increased precipitation in February. Wheat potential is better than last year with more generous precipitation. However, a poor wheat harvest in Texas seems unavoidable, keeping a lid on U.S. Hard red wheat potential and preventing an abundant harvest. Texas is the U.S.'s 3rd biggest bread wheat state behind Kansas and Oklahoma.

Hard red winter wheat conditions have been up and down this winter, as the La Niña has waxed and waned.

US Feb Precip

The La Niña is a known drought maker in the Southern Great Plains, suppressing the southern jet stream which normally is source of heavy winter precipitation. With La Niña warm and dry weather develops across the southern third of the United States in winter.

Texas wheat prospects are dismal with 29% good-excellent, 31% fair and 40% poor-very poor wheat as of February 12. It is better than last season's 15% good-excellent 27% fair and 58% poor to very poor. Last year 64% of Texas wheat was "abandoned" not harvested for grain because of historic drought. Perhaps 55% of the wheat harvest will go unharvested this season.