Martell: Valuable Rains in Upper Midwest

March 26, 2012 02:56 AM

The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of

Unseasonable Warmth in Midwest Corn Belt, Valuable Rain Upper Midwest


March temperatures have been 15 to 25 F above normal in Midwest corn areas giving growers ideas about planting early. Soil temperatures already exceed the 52 F threshold for germinating seeds even through a deep soil layer 10 inches down. Early planting dates are associated with higher yields, especially in the Upper Midwest. By planting early, the growing season is lengthened adding extra heat units in Minnesota, northern Iowa and South Dakota. Strong spring growth promotes taller plants and larger ears with more kernels.

US Recent Heavy Rains

Field conditions are still dry in Upper Midwest corn states even though good showers occurred last week. Unusually warm and windy weather sapped topsoil moisture reducing the effectiveness of rainfall. The subsoil is dry from severe drought last fall. Thus, the Upper Midwest still needs more rain in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and northwest Wisconsin.

U.S. Hard Red Winter Wheat Receives Generous Rain, Not a Stellar Crop

Heavy rainfall this week has improved hard red winter wheat prospects in the Southern Great Plains, especially Oklahoma but also southern Kansas where 1-2 inches of rain occurred.

Oklahoma, the second largest U.S. wheat state, has a very favorable outlook presently 70% good-excellent, 23% fair and 7% poor-very poor March 18 report, and prior to heavy rain.

Kansas wheat is not stellar, reflecting dry planting conditions last fall and spring drought in the western part of the state. Crop ratings were given at 54% good-excellent, 35% fair and 11% poor on the March 18 report. Conditions may improve on the March 25 report, following recent soaking rains.

Texas has the worst wheat in the U.S. bread-basket. Crop potential is above last year, when historic drought occurred, but not favorable with 34% good-excellent, 28% fair and 38% poor-very poor wheat on March 18. Persistent drought in the panhandle, the key wheat growing area, is the reason for pessimism. Poor looking wheat showing no promise for a profitable yield would be grazed out, used as a feed grain for beef cattle, and planted with another crop in the spring. A hard freeze Wednesday morning in the Texas panhandle may have given growers additional incentive to collect crop insurance.

Brazil Soybean Shortages, China Large Import Needs

The United States hopes to increase its market share of soybean exports to China this year, compensating for reduced availability from Brazil due to drought losses. China’s Commerce Ministry estimates that March soybean imports will total 5.11 million metric tons (MMT), up 33% from February. China soybean production has remained stagnant over the past decade, as growers have switched out of soybeans and into corn in the main Northeast China growing area.

The USDA has predicted a Brazil soybean harvest of 68.50 MMT, down 9% from last season, based on March 1 conditions. Since then, prospects have worsened from intense drought in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s 3rd leading soybean state. Some new estimates are now in the 66.50 – 67.50 MMT range.

Brazil’s harvest has now passed the halfway point, with Brazilian consultant Safras & Mercado estimating progress at 55% as of Friday, and ahead of the five-year average of 43%. Rapid harvesting reflects premature ripening from drought stress in southern Brazil and supporting ideas of a reduced soybean harvest.

Deep Snowpack Persists in Russia Volga, Spring Planting Delays Feared

Temperatures moderated last week in European Russia, compacting a heavy snowpack in the Volga District. There is still one foot of snow on the ground in the Volga District, where spring fieldwork is due to start in about a month. This is a key spring wheat and barley growing area. Due to the northern latitude, similar to the Canadian prairies, early planting dates are best to insure grain planting will be accomplished in good time. Otherwise, the crop area may be reduced. Typically, spring grain production makes up 55% of the Russia harvest.

Russia Snow Depth

We’re familiar with slow- melting snow and planting delays in spring wheat. Last year deep snow persisted in North Dakota through March, with below-normal temperatures, delaying fieldwork and planting in the top United States top spring wheat state. Gradual melting began in April, but fields were still saturated with snowmelt and partially frozen May 1, the normal start of spring planting. Not all of the intended small grain was able to be planted from soggy field conditions. In addition, a delayed, strung-out harvest caused wheat deterioration from high humidity and rainy weather conditions.

Volga spring grains wheat and barley may be subject to the same problems from a heavy snowpack and delayed snowmelt.













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