Corn Damage from Historic July Heat
Growing conditions for corn have improved in August but July heat stress caused irreversible damage in corn. The USDA Thursday issued a yield estimate for U.S. corn of 153 bushels per acre and 5% below trend. Production would be 12.9 billion bushels, and insufficient to avoid a sharp drawdown in stocks from high consumption needs.
Here is the lowdown on July heat. Temperatures averaged 78.4 F and 4.3 F above normal. It was the hottest July since 1955. Pictures of damaged corn from around the Midwest began circulating on the internet, showing blank ear tips from unsuccessful pollination. Other photos showed small, stubby ears with a reduced number of kernels. The question is not if damage occurred but how severe?
Corn having a deep root system withstood the heat relatively better, tapping into a rich source of subsoil moisture. Ridge-rider thunderstorms also brought produced beneficial rain in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota. Western corn states have maintained high crop ratings reporting 73-79% good-excellent corn August 7. The Eastern Midwest corn was much worse, 50% good-excellent in Illinois and Ohio, 41% in Indiana, 43% in Missouri and 66% in Michigan. Shallow rooting may have been to blame for rapid deterioration. Corn was planted late into wet fields and was not well established.
Soybean Production Pegged 8% Lower
U.S. soybean production would fall 8% below 2010 with a 3.06 billion bushel harvest, based on the August USDA production estimate. Soybeans are known to tolerate heat better than corn, worsening drought July into August began to take a toll. The national soybean rating August 7 reflected the worsening drought with a season-low rating 61% good-excellent, 26% fair and 12% poor-very poor.
Midwest producers realize that generous August rainfall would improve prospects, increasing the number of pods set, also enlarging beans within the pod. The key reproductive stage is already quite advanced with h 87% of soybeans blooming and 51% setting pods on August 7. An average yield may not be possible. The USDA has pegged the U.S. soybean yield at 41.4 bushels an acre and 5.3% below trend.
The dome of hot air responsible for Midwest crop damage has sunk into the Southern U.S., still keeping a grip on Texas and the Deep South. Cooler and wetter conditions have developed in the Midwest where most soybeans are grown. Increased showers recently have been beneficial, but much more rain is needed after a prolonged long dry stretch.
Lower Bread Wheat Supplies and Exports
Historic drought in the Southern Great Plains decimated wheat production in Texas and Oklahoma, and cut the Kansas harvest by by one-quarter. Production of high protein hard red winter wheat, used in bread, would shrink 22% this season, based on USDA August estimates. The best scenario would be a bumper hard red spring wheat harvest, but instead sharp losses are anticipated in the new harvest now beginning. Ironically, not drought, but extreme wetness is the reason for the shortfall.
Extreme spring wetness from a delayed snowmelt and persistent cold led to a 3-week planting delay. Not all the intended wheat was sown in North Dakota, the top producer and Montana. The updated hard red spring wheat estimate is 522 million bushels and 15% down on the season. North Dakota the top producing state would see production fall 18%.
A very slow start to the growing season means harvesting delays are certain. If the harvest gets strung out for several weeks into the fall wheat quality may suffer. Presently, growing conditions are ultra-wet in North Dakota promoting the development of disease.
The UK agriculture news AgriMoney pointed out that, for the first time in history, United States wheat exports in 2011-12 would drop below the former Soviet Union bloc comprised of wheat producers Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.