KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — Spring cereals in Canada, the United States, Kazakhstan and a part of Russia all had a tough summer this year. Drought in most of these areas cut into production and helped to make a few commodity traders rich. The higher prices were not as welcome or well received by food companies. The once abundantly accessible and oversupplied cereal is seeing a change in its abundancy, especially the higher quality crops.
Southern Hemisphere wheat producers are hoping to take full advantage of the Northern Hemisphere production failings and high prices and turn it into a big year of profit. Australia and Argentina are the two larger players in Southern Hemisphere wheat production and Australia is poised for another significant production year. That pleases producers down under and will help them cash in big time after being punished by multiple drought years and low prices previously.
The prospects for wheat production in Australia are looking relatively good for this year. Recent frost and freezes in the drier cropland of Queensland has not knocked the wind out of Australia’s sails — at least not yet. Queensland has still not fully recovered from the multiple drought years of the past and its yield may be down a bit without more rain soon. Reproduction in Queensland should occur in the first half of September, and the recent frost and freezes noted there along with dry field conditions may reduce some unirrigated crop yields. Queensland is not a big enough wheat producer to pull down the production of Australia’s total crop, but the growing season is far from over.
Worry will be rising later this season over the potential for a wet harvest in eastern Australia. That is the biggest threat facing that crop, which otherwise is expected to be quite large.
There is also much early season speculation over Argentina wheat weather, but even though the nation’s soil is low today, it is not as anomalously dry this year as it was in either of the past two years. Argentina’s wheat also was well established in many areas during the planting season. The exception was in Cordoba, where dryness left some of the crop a little more poorly established than in other areas.
World Weather, Inc. believes wheat in Argentina this year may perform relatively well. Despite La Niña and much talk about it leaving Argentina in a drought, the nation may see some well-timed rainfall to support production.
Back in the Northern Hemisphere there is some growing concern over the establishment and general health of hard red winter wheat in the Plains this year. Amazing that such worry would occur before much of the crop gets into the ground, but there is reason for the concern. World Weather, Inc. sees the 18-year cycle, solar cycle and La Niña all contributing to a below-average precipitation bias that may not impact crops as much during the planting season as it will in the establishment period. October is likely to be dry and very warm. September weather is going to be a little more mixed, but plenty of warm and drier biased air will be around to remove favorable moisture from the soil while crops are establishing.
The best soil conditions today are in the central Plains, and that region might be wise to get planting done early because of the drier bias expected later this season. Wheat may not be as well established in the central and southwestern Plains as it should be in unirrigated fields and that will be important because there will be some bouts of cold weather this winter with restricted snowfall around. That also will occur in association with La Niña, the negative phase of Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the 18-year and solar cycles. There is also a correlation with all of those weather oscillators and high-level winds over the equator, suggesting some colder biased conditions will be possible in the winter of 2021-22.
Studies of atmospheric cycling show a dependable bias of cooler-than-usual temperatures occurring in Canada’s Prairies, the far northern US Plains, the US Pacific Northwest and many areas in the northeastern United States to experience below-average temperatures during the October through March period. The 18-year cycle, high-level winds over the equator and La Niña also correlate well with cool biased temperatures over the central Plains, Midwest and eastern states raising the confidence level that we may experience some cold conditions this winter.
More importantly than the cold, is the precipitation bias. Recent rain has improved topsoil moisture in parts of the upper Midwest and northwestern Corn Belt as well as a portion of the northern Plains, but that period of improved soil moisture is waning and it soon will be replaced by warm and dry conditions later this month and especially in October. The environment will take moisture out of the soil across the Plains and a part of the Midwest. The trend for below-average precipitation continues across the Plains and northwestern Corn Belt through the winter and into spring and that consideration occurs without the influence of La Niña.
La Niña has a rather solid record for restricting precipitation in the Plains and western Corn Belt during the autumn, winter and early spring seasons on its own without the influence of these other weather patterns. It is for all of these reasons that concern over dryness in the US Plains and western Corn Belt will prevail long enough to bring some concern into the spring of 2022. Early indications suggest spring rainfall might not be as good as it ought to be either.
Not only is the dryness in the US Plains a concern for wheat, but neighboring western Corn Belt crop areas are probably going to be dealing with moisture shortages as well, and that could set the stage for some concern in 2022 for corn and soybean production.
As we have mentioned previously in our writings, there is evidence that dryness in North America will last over multiple years and storing up grains is still an idea that food companies and consumers would be wise to do while the commodity prices are still relatively low and while the availability of grain is still relatively good. Add these words of wisdom to the concern about fruit and vegetable production in California being more seriously cut in 2022 because of ongoing drought and one cannot look at the forecast and not be just a little concerned about an eventual food supply issue that could hit pretty hard if enough calamity occurs to impact the world’s production of other crops.