Weather Extremes Damaging Crops in the U.S. and Elsewhere

July 25, 2012 08:18 AM

The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of

Heat Dome Takes Toll on U.S. Corn

A large dome of high pressure west of the Mississippi River in July has intensified drought in some of the biggest United States corn states, including Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. The deterioration in corn has been swift and severe -- "good" to "excellent" rated corn fell to 36% on July 22, compared with 64% on July 1. The percentage of corn rated "poor" to "very poor" has increased by 21% this month, now comprising one-third of all corn in the western belt. July's extreme heat, 5°F to 8° F above normal, has worsened drought damage in corn.

July Heat Stress

New corn yield estimates released this week peg the crop at 130 to 132 bu. per acre and nearly 20% below trend. This would be the second worst yield in modern times. The notorious 1988 drought season finished with a national yield 25% below average.

Illinois and Indiana corn potential is already a match with 1988, based on July 22 crop conditions, as 69% of corn fell into the "poor" to "very poor" bracket, compared with 63% in 1988. "Good" to "excellent" corn was at 7% compared to 2% in 1988.

Weather Extremes in Europe Jeopardize Crops

Weather extremes are taking a toll in Europe, too, as extreme wetness is jeopardizing wheat quality at the harvest, while corn yields are at risk in southern Europe due to a heat wave.

The European Commission MARS division this week reduced corn yield expectations in Hungary, Italy and Romania to 6.73 metric tons per hectare, 9% lower than a previous peg, claiming heat and dryness was damaging pollinating corn.

Northern Europe has been extremely wet, damaging the quality of wheat and barley amid ongoing harvest. The United Kingdom, Europe's third largest wheat grower, experienced the wettest April to July since 1975, and the lowest sunshine ever, based on official reports from the weather center. The Mars commission report explains, "This accumulation of unfavorable meteorological conditions is expected to have jeopardized yield potential for all crops by subjecting them to intense disease pressure, limiting photosynthesis and exposing them to lodging."

USDA in July projected EU-27 wheat production (including durum) at 133.1 million metric tons (MMT), down from 135.7 MMT last season. Corn production would be just 1% bigger than 2011, despite a 8.5% jump in planted acres. It is worth noting USDA estimates were based on July 1 conditions. Since then, corn has suffered from heat and drought that coincides with pollination. Thus, European corn production needs to be revised sharply lower.

In rapeseed, devastating losses have been incurred in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland. This is due to poor planting conditions and crop establishment last fall, from drought, followed by freeze damage in winter and now a heat wave.

Europe Rainfall Extremes

Russian Grain Estimates Shrinking, Heat and Drought to Blame

SovEcon last week presented a lower wheat estimate for Russia. The respected analysis firm based in Moscow now predicts a wheat harvest of 46.5 million metric tons. Exports are seen at 10 MMT. The revised wheat production estimate would be 17% below last year and just 5 MMT larger than 2010, the notorious drought season. A series of very severe weather events explains the extraordinary damage in wheat.

The southern district that grows the lion's share of winter wheat was hit by intense drought. Extremely dry winter and spring weather damaged wheat in Krasnodar and Stavropol, the southernmost wheat growing areas. This was an extension of severe drought in the Middle East. Krasnodar wheat also was further damaged by winterkill, the drought and freeze losses claiming more than 25% of the crop. Drought and heat stress subsequently enveloped a much larger area of Russia's winter wheat, expanding up into Volgograd and Volga River valley wheat. Scarcely half of normal rainfall developed April through June, accompanied by intensifying heat.

If that were not enough, a massive "heat dome" developed in July affecting spring wheat growing areas in the eastern Volga, Urals and western Siberia. Western Kazakhstan wheat has also succumbed to severe drought.

Russia Summer Heat Wave

Russia Drought Expanding North

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