Weather is no longer leading the commodity markets as it so often does. The world’s pandemic continues to dominate the marketplace, and prior to that it was mostly about China. It would be a safe bet to say weather will be back at center stage before too long, but for now it will be lie quietly with little to say about the world’s grain and oilseed trade. There is likely to be a short bump in the weather road that could occur soon that might briefly give the market a little lift, and that is when it is realized that early US planting will be delayed while Safrinha corn in Brazil dries out as the crop approaches reproduction.
US early-season planting is certainly not off to the kind to start that producers and traders like to see. The impact is mostly on the US Delta and parts of Texas and, quite frankly, the region just will not have much to say about the entire US production year. However, it will be April before fieldwork begins in the heart of that region and even then conditions may not be ideal.
Despite recent weather patterns, saturated soil and recent flooding conditions are expected to turn around later this spring. Farmers need to be aware that the wettest areas in the Delta and southeastern states have a good chance of drying out significantly as April gives way to May. Dryness will occur in time for aggressive late planting, and when that realization is made the market bump up may not extend much farther. That is especially true when considering the northern Midwest will likely have a better start to fieldwork than southern areas.
The biggest issue for the northern Midwest may be cool temperatures during April. There is a chance that mid- to late April temperatures will be cooler than usual and it would not be surprising to see frost and freezes occurring at times during that time period. Freezes in April across the northern Midwest are not that unusual, but they can scare producers into planting closer to the normal last freeze date, and that is what should happen this year.
Rainy weather in the United States may be most anomalous in the balance of March. Some improvement will occur in April, but between the periodic bouts of cooler weather and the rain that precedes it there may still not be aggressive fieldwork in some areas. Nevertheless, this planting season will not be nearly as wet as last year, and the delays will not be nearly as long lasting or impacting on the bottom line. The biggest fear for 2020 is that parts of the lower Midwest, Delta and southeastern states may trend a little too dry too quickly and that could harm some of production potential along with some of the late planting.
May is going to be a different month with the northern Plains and Upper Midwest trending wetter while the lower eastern Midwest, Delta and southeastern states heat up the most and begin drying out fast enough to raise some new worries. The trend will support some aggressive planting in areas that were a little slow with farming activity in April. Rain and cool conditions in the northern Plains in May will slow fieldwork and crop development and producers will need to time their planting in late April and early May before the wettest conditions kick in.
In the meantime, Brazil’s ideal weather during the soybean growing season that generated a record crop will deteriorate just enough to stress second season corn and cotton. These Safrinha crops will experience a couple of problems, one of which is already expected and that is associated with late planting. March 15 is normally the last date for planting across Brazil’s second season crop region. It is not clear whether most of the crop got planted or not, but World Weather, Inc. believes most of the crop got seeded.
Informants from Brazil have suggested that half of the Safrinha corn crop was planted normally. Another 30% of the crop was late planted and the last 20% was planted very late. Nearly 70% of Brazil’s total corn is expected to be produced during the Safrinha season this year, and with 20% of the crop planted very late it is already expected to yield poorly. The 30% of the corn crop that was planted late, but not extremely late, will need the summer monsoon season to last longer than usual. If it does, yields could be favorable.
World Weather Inc. is not expecting monsoonal precipitation to last longer than usual. Normally, monsoonal rainfall ends during the first half of April in the most important second season corn and cotton production areas. The late planted crop could yield favorably if the monsoon were to last through April and diminish in early May, but that is not likely — not this year. The monsoon is expected withdraw normally and the last couple of weeks of rain may be erratic and sometimes a little too light to keep the ground adequately to abundantly wet until the day the monsoon ends.
In a normal year, corn would be planted in late January and February with only a few crops seeded in early March. Seasonal rainfall would usually last through the first half of April and it would end with the soil completely saturated. With seasonable temperatures and limited rain in the second half of April the ground would not become significantly dry until the second week of May. By then, most of the corn crop would have reproduced making it a successful growing season. However, in a year like this, reproduction will still be underway in late April and for some areas in May. If the monsoon ends normally, but the rainfall in early April is erratic and does not keep the ground saturated then after the monsoon ends the region will quickly become too dry during reproduction and yields will suffer.
The very late planted crop this year may struggle through establishment in late March, develop in a less-than-ideal environment during April and reproduce without significant moisture in dryland production areas during May, resulting in low yields. That is about 20% of this year’s crops. The 30% of corn that was planted late, but not very late, could still yield well if the ground is fully saturated at the end of April, but the odds of that happening are low. World Weather, Inc. believes the crop will suffer from dryness and will yield lower than usual. Since the majority of corn production in Brazil this year will be a Safrinha crop the potential impact of dryness is moderately high. A close watch on rainfall through April is warranted.
Temperatures will have a significant role to play as well. The warmer temperatures are relative to normal the greater the evaporative moisture losses, and the faster the ground will dry out after the monsoonal precipitation abates.