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Argentina weather has corn, soybeans booming

Agriculture.com Staff 01/23/2007 @ 1:11pm

The presence of an extended El Niño weather pattern may cause this year's South American corn and soybean crops to be big ones.

In the last 20 years, lengthy, strong El Niño patterns are often followed by a large corn crop in South America. Such was true in the 1986-1987, 1992-1993, 1997-1998 and 2002-2003 growing seasons, says Harvey Freese, meteorologist with Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa. This data indicates the same is likely true for the 2006-2007 crop.

"Obviously based on that trend, we are looking for above-normal corn yields in Argentina," Freese says. "But, the next three weeks are pretty critical for them. They need continued rain and cool temperatures."

Argentine analysts do expect corn output to surge. Many have pegged production to range between 19 and 21 million tons, according to Dow Jones Newswires, a figure that was upped significantly after heavier-than-normal precipitation in November and December.

"Weather conditions are ideal this year. There are no present worries with the weather," Argentine farmer Roberto Vitón told Agriculture Online Markets Editor Mike McGinnis. "If rains continue with the current pattern, a new record will be set this year."

If these favorable weather conditions do continue, Argentina could also post record soybean production numbers this year. Officials with the Argentine Agriculture Secretariat this week pegged 2006-2007 soybean acreage higher than previous estimates, to 16.05 million hectares, up from 16 million a month ago. Analysts say moisture earlier in the growing season has helped this year's soybean crop rebound from drought, and the higher planting figures reflect the improved conditions.

Record acreage plus improved growing conditions will likely result in a record soybean crop for Argentina. The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service projects a crop of 42.5 million tons, though other estimates are as high as 45 million tons.

So what's the specific weather characteristic of El Niño that has crop outlooks there looking bullish? Increased moisture along the Gulf of Mexico coast and milder winter weather in the Pacific northwest in the U.S. are signatures of El Niño, but in the southern hemisphere, Freese says the pattern is less consistent.

"I don't know that you can say an El Niño always does 'this,'" he says. "We just have looked back at corn yields, and it appears they have favorable weather.

"The bottom line, to us, is the weather continues to look favorable for big crops."

The presence of an extended El Niño weather pattern may cause this year's South American corn and soybean crops to be big ones.

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