KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Crop weather in Argentina in the first half of December was extremely dry with very few locations in the nation reporting half of normal rain. Many areas were reporting only one quarter of the usual rainfall, and temperatures trended much warmer during the second week of the month after a cool start.

Late November temperatures were mild to cool in southeastern parts of the nation and very warm in the northwest. The cool bias helped conserve soil moisture while rainfall was lighter than usual in some areas. The recent heat in Argentina has brought on a frothy sweat among grain and oilseed farmers who were once concerned about too much moisture in a part of the nation. Now, the farmer are concerned about recent heat and dryness.

Argentina seems to be at the crossroads between a serious drought and crop improvement. Most indicators suggest a road to improvement is most likely, although it will be extremely important that follow-up rain occurs after that which falls in the next 10 days. Most computer forecast models have been suggesting increased rainfall will occur in Argentina’s key grain and oilseed production areas during the period from Dec. 15-25. The precipitation could not occur at a more important time because topsoil moisture was rated short to very short just prior to Dec. 15.

The lack of topsoil moisture was occurring at a time when nearly half of the 2018 corn and soybean crop remained to be planted. The sweat coming from the producers’ brows was the result of withering crops that recently have emerged and were running out of moisture to continue development. Planting has been slowed to a halt in some of the driest areas, which appear to be in the northwest part of the nation. But topsoil conditions have firmed everywhere, and the worry for producers is rising fast, but so are the chances for rain.

Three weather systems were expected to move through Argentina in the Dec. 15-25 period, each of which would be fueled by cool air aloft in a fast-moving west to east flow pattern. The odds for rain to fall in much of the nation during this period are high, but follow-up rain will be extremely important to avoid a return of extremely dry conditions in another 10 days.

Advertised changes in Argentina are quite familiar. The widespread dryness has been mirrored in most of the La Niña events of the recent past. If tradition holds the driest bias will soon shift to eastern Argentina. Typically, the month of December is a period of transition in which dryness that had been widespread in Argentina shifts to eastern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil, where it is likely to prevail through January. This traditional weather transition is all credited to La Niña. The phenomenon will continue influencing weather around the world over the next few weeks, but there is support for some weakening, and that eventually may lead to some returning rainfall or at least some timely rain events that will help prevent dryness from becoming extensive in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and eastern Argentina.

In the meantime, dryness that is most serious in Argentina today should be relieved in the next couple of weeks with western and northern parts of the nation likely to get additional showers and thunderstorms later this month. The rain should bring relief to the critically dry areas in Santiago del Estero, northwestern Santa Fe and western and northern Chaco. These areas in Argentina that have been driest and have suffered with dryness for the longest period of time will likely receive timely rainfall to support a better second half to the growing season. Some dryness will linger and some of the impact of dryness will leave behind a scar that will lower production in many early season crops.

In the meantime, Brazil’s crop weather has gone from questionable in center west to ideal. Crop development that was stressed earlier this year is now racing along, and early December statistics suggest crop conditions are very good in a majority of the nation. The earliest planted soybeans have begun to bloom and both full season corn and early soybean planting is nearly complete.

Recent weather in northern Brazil has become a little too wet in parts of Minas Gerais, where some flooding has occurred recently. The beneficial rain has been in northeastern Brazil, where a multi-year drought has potential to be eased, but confidence is not high for the drought to end since the second half of December could trend a little drier in the northeast and far south while rain falls abundantly in center west and all of center south Brazil.

Brazil’s biggest issue for 2018 production remains for its second season corn crop, which may be planted late. Seasonal rainfall will have to linger longer than usual in Brazil to support late corn planting this summer. The situation will be very closely monitored. In the meantime, soybeans will likely yield well, despite their slow start to the planting season.

Weather conditions elsewhere in the world are far from dramatic enough to turn many heads in the commodity trade business. South Africa is getting some La Niña-based rainfall and more will fall over the next few weeks. Australia’s winter crop harvesting is winding down after a brief scare to quality in the southeast following too much rain earlier this month. India received its first round of La Niña rainfall, but more is needed to assure the best production year.

Winter crops in southwestern Europe are getting some timely rainfall along with those in Northwest Africa. That rain was badly needed after a slow start to the rainy season. Southeast Asia rainfall continues to fall adequately to abundantly to support crops throughout the region, and no changes in that pattern are likely prior to the Northern Hemisphere spring season.

Most of the world’s weather has recently been biased by La Niña and that bias will likely continue through March. World Weather, Inc.’s recent discovery of an association between La Niña events and solar minimums virtually assures the presence of La Niña at least to some degree through the spring and into early summer. That could lead to some dryness in southeastern China, Russia and possibly the United States this spring and early summer, but confidence is still a little low.