The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of MartellCropProjections.com:
Extremely Dry Atmosphere in Argentina Buenos Aires
Argentina's top corn area experienced extremely low humidity in late November and early December, which was stressful for developing corn. Maximum temperatures have frequently topped near 94°F, while strong cooling has developed at night with lows near 55°F. The 40-degree difference in temperatures indicates a desert-like atmosphere from extremely low relative humidity. The normal daily range in temperatures would be 20 degrees.
The exceptionally low humidity can be attributed to strong high pressure, which also depresses rainfall. Breakthrough showers occurred in mid-November, but mostly conditions have been dry. We are watching the weather closely in Buenos Aires because this area is prone to drought when La Niña is in effect.
Mato Grosso Heat and Moisture Stress
An intense weather fluctuation has brought heat and dryness to Mato Grosso, Brazil, endangering soybeans in the nation's top producing state. Satellite analysis confirms unusually hot, dry weather in central Brazil.
The following data comes from NESDIS, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service: Low rainfall in December is unusual, since showers typically occur on a daily basis in the Brazil tropics. Rainfall in the past 30 to 35 days has been 77% of normal. Hot temperatures in the mid 90°s F have been common.
The key west central area where soybeans are heavily cultivated should be receiving 90 millimeters of rainfall each week in December. That would be twice as much rainfall as the Midwest receives weekly in mid-summer. The extreme heat in the tropics causes very high evaporation, thus extremely heavy rain is required to successfully grow crops.
China Soybean Imports to Soar to Unforeseen Levels
China's government seems driven to attain self-sufficiency in corn production while importing ever-larger quantities of soybeans. Soymeal is used in livestock rations as a high protein additive. There is not enough arable land in China to expand production of both crops.
According to government reports, Chinese corn production in 2011 was a record 191.75 million metric tons (MMT) which is enough of the feed grain to cover annual needs. On the other hand, soybean production has stagnated near 14 to 15 MMT for more than a decade. Growers on the Manchurian Plain have switched soybean land into corn due to higher profitability in corn.
USDA predicts China will import a record 56.50 MMT of soybeans in 2011-12. The main suppliers are the United States, Brazil and Argentina. The U.S. share of soybean exports to China may suffer, due to a short harvest this season, down 8% to 9% from a year ago. Brazil is predicting a near-record soybean harvest of 75 MMTs. Argentina soybean production is pegged 6% higher than 2011-12 at 52 MMT.
Hard Red Winter Wheat Improves with November Rainfall
Winter wheat potential in the U.S. bread basket is better than year ago, but prospects are still mediocre with 49% good-excellent, 38% fair and 13% poor-very poor. November rainfall was generous in the top two production states (Kansas and Oklahoma), but Texas rainfall was scattered and generally below normal.
The forecast this week calls for soaking rainfall in all three top hard red winter wheat states. Historically, when a wet winter followed a fall of extreme drought, hard red winter wheat has made a good harvest in one out of three cases.
Wetness Hinders Winter Wind Damage
Dampening the topsoil with rain improves root development in wheat, holding the soil in place during the blustery winter. Blowing dirt is the No. 1 cause of wheat damage in the winter. In years of drought, poorly established wheat may not be harvested for grain. Rather, wheat producers graze out wheat to cattle, using it as a feed grain, or tear it up and plant with another crop in the spring.
With extreme drought last year, only one-third of Texas wheat was harvested for grain. Wheat production was 49.4 million bushels in 2010-11, which makes it the smallest harvest since 1962-63.