USDA: Rains Needed Across Australia's Wheat Belt

April 24, 2013 04:09 AM



USDA's Joint Ag Weather Facility has provided the following weekly weather/crop highlights:

  • EUROPE: A much-needed return of warmer weather encouraged fieldwork and accelerated crop development. The large area of high pressure over the northern Atlantic Ocean responsible for the recent month-long cold spell dissipated, allowing warmer-than-normal conditions (3-8°C above normal) to return to most of the continent. Weekly average temperatures in Germany, Poland, and the Baltic States surged above 5°C, easing winter crops out of dormancy several weeks later than normal. Likewise, increasing warmth promoted crop development across the United Kingdom, France, and the Low Countries, where wheat and rapeseed development had halted due to the early spring cold snap. Mostly sunny skies and above-normal temperatures across southern Europe favored fieldwork and winter grain development, although showers (10-30 mm) in the lower Danube River Valley boosted soil moisture for upcoming summer crop planting.

  • FSU-WESTERN: Warmer weather overspread northern crop areas, while dry, mild conditions prevailed in southern portions of Russia and Ukraine. Temperatures up to 6°C above normal across northern Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Russia melted the remaining snowpack and ushered winter crops out of dormancy. Meanwhile, sunny skies and near-normal temperatures promoted winter grain development and encouraged spring grain planting and emergence. Light to moderate rain (2-20 mm) was confined to western crop areas, with 2 to 20 mm reported in Ukraine, Belarus, and western portions of Russia’s Central District.

  • MIDDLE EAST: Showery weather continued in northern crop areas and returned to previously dry central winter grain areas. Additional moderate to heavy showers (10-50 mm, locally more) across Turkey maintained favorable prospects for vegetative to reproductive winter wheat and barley. Farther east, light to moderate showers (5-35 mm) provided soil moisture for rain-fed winter crops in northern Iran. Meanwhile, much-needed rain (10-70 mm) eased dryness concerns for reproductive winter grains from the eastern Mediterranean Coast into northern Iraq. In addition, showers (5-25 mm) in southwestern Iran provided supplemental moisture for irrigated wheat. Temperatures averaged near normal, with seasonal heat (30-36°C) in central and southern Iraq accelerating winter crops through the filling stage of development.

  • NORTHWEST AFRICA: Sunny skies and above-normal temperatures accelerated winter grain growth across the region. Crop prospects remained excellent in Morocco due to consistent, timely rainfall, although increasing heat (35-38°C) may have trimmed yield expectations for filling wheat in southern portions of the country. Elsewhere, increasingly warm weather (up to 7°C above normal) accelerated winter grains through the reproductive stages of development in Algeria and Tunisia, although crop areas close to the coast were spared the heat (only 1-3°C above normal) due to the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea.

  • EAST ASIA: Late-week showers (10-25 mm) provided beneficial moisture to reproductive winter wheat on the North China Plain while also easing spring rainfall deficits. Spring rainfall thus far (beginning March 1) for the North China Plain typically averages about 50 mm, with current spring rainfall totals of approximately 30 mm. Dry weather prevailed across much of the Yangtze Valley, benefiting ripening winter rapeseed. While brief showers (less 10 mm) provided some moisture to spring rice and corn in the Valley, seasonal (since March 1) rainfall continued to be well below normal. Rice areas south of the Yangtze River received 25 to 50 mm of rain, maintaining favorable moisture supplies. In general, more consistent rains would be welcomed across China for spring-sown crops, especially with warmer weather increasing crop-water demands. Temperatures averaged 2 to 4°C above normal for the week.

  • SOUTHEAST ASIA: Showers continued to become more established in central portions of the region (Malaysia to southern Thailand) as 50 to 100 mm increased moisture reserves for oil palm and improved moisture conditions in preparation for rice transplanting in Thailand. Easterly winds, however, remained entrenched across the majority of Thailand as growers await the moisture-laden westerlies and the start of the rainy season. In northern Vietnam, spring rainfall deficits continued for winter-spring rice with little if any rain during the period. In the Philippines, seasonably drier weather was becoming established in eastern areas, while continued rainfall (25-150 mm) in Mindanao favored corn and rice and increased showers (10-25 mm) in the western Visayan Islands encouraging field preparations.

  • AUSTRALIA: In southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, isolated showers (generally 1-3 mm, locally near 10 mm) caused only temporary delays in cotton and sorghum harvesting. The mostly dry weather favored other fieldwork as well, including early winter wheat planting in Queensland. Elsewhere in the wheat belt, warm, dry weather prevailed across Victoria and southern New South Wales. Farther west, scattered, light showers (generally 3-15 mm) fell across South Australia and Western Australia. More rain would be helpful in all of these areas to help condition topsoils in advance of seasonal wheat, barley, and canola planting. Typically, most winter crops are planted during May and June in the wheat belt. Temperatures averaged 1 to 2°C above normal in western and southern Australia and near normal in eastern Australia.

  • SOUTH AFRICA: Soaking rain came too late for summer crops but the moisture was timely for germination and establishment of winter wheat. Rainfall totaled 25 to 100 mm across much of the northeastern half of the country, including the corn belt (North West to Mpumalanga) and the sugarcane fields of KwaZulu-Natal. For much of the region, these amounts represented more than four times the normal rainfall for this time of year. The moisture gave a late-season boost to local reservoirs, but likely had limited benefit for filling to maturing summer crops. Early sugarcane harvesting was also impacted. However, more than half of the country’s winter wheat production now comes from this part of the country, and the moisture will be overall beneficial. Elsewhere, similar amounts were recorded in eastern sections of Eastern Cape, and southwestern farming areas of Western Cape, boosting irrigation reserves for winter crops and providing additional moisture for winter wheat establishment. Rainfall was patchy and light elsewhere in the Cape Provinces. Weekly temperatures averaged near to below normal throughout the region, but minimum temperatures stayed above freezing in most major agricultural areas.

  • ARGENTINA: Warm, dry weather dominated the region, hastening development of summer grains, oilseeds, and cotton and supporting harvesting. Weekly temperatures averaged 1 to 4°C above normal in most agricultural districts, with the warmest weather relative to normal occurring in agricultural areas lying more to the south and west (La Pampa and western Buenos Aires to Tucuman). Cooler weather prevailed in the northeast, with near- to below-normal temperatures in the main cotton areas (Santiago del Estero eastward). Daytime highs reached the lower 30s (degrees C) on several days from La Pampa northward to Formosa, and the upper 20s from eastern Buenos Aires northward. A mid-week cool snap lowered temperatures below 5°C on several mornings in the traditionally cooler sections of central and southern Buenos Aires, but no widespread freezes were recorded. According to Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture, corn and soybeans were 43 and 38 percent harvested, respectively, as of April 18, similar to last year’s pace. In addition, cotton was 30 percent harvested.

  • BRAZIL: Dry, mild weather dominated the south, aiding seasonal fieldwork that had been delayed by previous bouts of unseasonable wetness. Little to no rain was recorded as far north as southern Mato Grosso, with below-normal rainfall (less than 25 mm) extending southeastward through parts of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. The drier conditions aided harvesting of sugarcane and soybeans, while also benefiting late-season development of coffee and citrus. Below-normal temperatures accompanied the southern dryness, but minimum temperatures stayed well above freezing and daytime highs briefly reached the lower 30s (degrees C) in some areas. Farther north, moderate to heavy rain (25-100 mm) continued in most areas from northern Mato Grosso to the northeastern interior (western Bahia). The rain was beneficial for development of secondary (safrinha) corn and cotton as the normal end of the rainy season approached. Similar amounts extended eastward to the coast (Bahia northward), boosting irrigation reserves for development of sugarcane and cocoa. Weekly temperatures averaged 1 to 2°C above normal throughout much of the region, with temperatures reaching the middle 30s in some of the warmer locations.

  • MEXICO: Dry weather continued throughout Mexico, favoring winter grain harvesting but limiting opportunities for planting of rainfed summer crops. Virtually no rain fell from the United States Border to the southern Pacific Coast, as scattered showers (locally in excess of 10 mm) were mostly confined to the far southeast (Chiapas to Yucatan). Seasonal showers typically begin in eastern sections of the southern plateau corn belt in April, and rain is needed soon to prevent significant delays in planting. Western sections — including Jalisco, the leading producer of winter corn — typically experience the start of the rainy season during May. Weekly temperatures averaged 1 to 3°C above normal in much of the country, the exception being the northwest, where temperatures averaged up to 2°C below normal. Daytime highs continued to reach the upper 30s (degrees C) in the northeast, speeding maturation and early harvesting of rain-fed winter sorghum.


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