KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — A repeating 62-day cold cycle in North America is due to return in the second half of April. The cold could send freezes farther south than is considered normal at this time of year, hurting crops that are approaching and entering reproduction. Damage to early planted and emerged corn and rice is possible, too.

This year’s 62-day cycle of cold has proven resilient. It first appeared Oct. 14, 2022, and then again on Dec. 15. The February appearance was influenced by the developing stratospheric warming event, but frost and freezes still managed to come southward into Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and some areas off to the northeast in the Carolinas. The cold did damage early emerged corn in Louisiana and burned sugar cane in southern coastal areas while some yield loss occurred in other areas from central Texas to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Another period of cold in US wheat areas this late in the season could prove detrimental to its nationwide production, which is already at odds with drought. The first two cold incidents had little impact and the third event did some damage, but probably not as much as another cold surge might in the second half of April if the cold occurs too far to the south.

Wheat is booting, heading and even flowering in many of the southern production areas in the nation and a significant bout of cold in late April would come after a notable period of warmer biased weather occurred during mid-month. The mid-month warming occurred after the ground was plenty moist in the Midwest, Delta and southeastern states and that has resulted in accelerated crop development.

The same is not true in dryland areas of the US west-central or southwestern Plains, where wheat has been rocked by drought, excessive wind, blowing dust and sand and frequent bouts of unusual warmth followed by more frost and freezes. Needless to say, the central US wheat is beat up.

The Kansas Mesonet suggested April 10 that the number of consecutive days without moisture totals of at least 0.25 inch had reached nearly six weeks, and up to 15 counties in the southwestern part of the state had been without that much rain for more than 200 days in a row. Some precipitation has occurred in these areas, but not more than 0.25 inch. That statistic says much about the condition of wheat in the region even though the Drought Monitor has been suggesting horrific conditions for a while.

The situation in Kansas may be a “sleeping dog” for the market or perhaps all of the wheat production in the United States may be that sleeping dog. Any additional seriously negative impact on North America wheat could be the match that lights a fire under the wheat trade. A late April freeze could add to the nation’s production woes, which have been mostly confined to the west-central and southwestern Plains.

However, the powder keg for rising wheat futures prices might not just be a US event. Canada’s Prairies are still in dire need for moisture in the southwest where this is the start of its seventh drought year and there is no moisture down deep in the ground. May is supposed to be a drier and warmer-than-usual month in southwestern Canada’s Prairies and if April precipitation is not great enough to provide planting moisture there may be a cut in planted acreage or at least a cut in yield because of late planting.

Canada’s southwestern Prairies are one issue, but the Red River Basin in southern Manitoba is another. Flood from the US Upper Midwest will work its way through the Red River System and if it lingers too long some spring wheat, canola, corn and soybean acres may be cut.

Another trouble spot in the world is in North Africa, where durum wheat has been dealing with dryness and there is no immediate sign of relief. There is some potential for rain in the second half of April, but confidence is low. Spain is another durum wheat producing nation that is suffering from dryness and significant rain is needed to help get the crop back on track. Concern has been rising that dryness in North Africa and Spain might induce a high-pressure ridge this late spring and summer in Western Europe and that could spread worry over small grain production to a larger production region. However, that is just speculation.

India’s wheat crop may have suffered a quality decline in March when rain fell frequently and significantly while the crop was maturing and beginning to fill. The western CIS, however, should have a very good winter crop in the ground as long as planting in the war zone was not seriously cut. China’s winter wheat is likely well established and developing favorably after significant rain fell early this month.

Australia’s future wheat development has been debated because of developing El Niño conditions that may cut into yields during reproduction in the spring, but for now the planting season is liable to begin quite favorably. In the meantime, Argentina is still dealing with drought and dryness, but by June when wheat is normally planted there ought to be much more rain as long as it does not become too wet.

Back to the United States, the perception for its soft wheat crop in the Midwest is quite good while hard red winter wheat is expected to perform poorly. The worst-case scenario for domestic winter wheat would be for a significant freeze to impact a part of the soft red wheat produced in the Midwest and a freeze in late April would certainly stir up some market emotion.

There are no guarantees in the weather business. The odds favor another cold surge in the Midwest and Plains later this month, but how serious the cold will be and its impact can only be speculated for now, but keep a close eye on the forecast models.

Drew Lerner is senior agricultural meteorologist with World Weather, Inc. He may be reached at [email protected]. World Weather, Inc. forecasts and comments pertaining to present, past and future weather conditions included in this report constitute the corporation’s judgment as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice.