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Trade shrugs off frost scare

Jeff Caldwell 09/15/2011 @ 9:51am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Though the grain markets seemed unfazed by the the sliding mercury overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning, farmers say the low temperatures amounted to a killing frost in some northern parts of the Corn Belt.

Corn, soybeans and wheat all closed Thursday's trade lower as the markets shrugged off the news of the freezing temperatures that bottomed out in the mid- to upper-20s in the northern Corn Belt Thursday morning; traders simply didn't see enough damage potential from the cool temperatures to inspire a rally. Nearby corn futures ended Thursday's trade 23 1/4 cents lower at $7.01 per bushel. Thursday's trade was a "typical post-freeze scare trading session," says Cargill senior grain merchandiser Ray Jenkins.

"Yes, there were some places that got frosted, but the area was not as large as expected -- and the history of trading the day after the actual freeze tends to be on the lower side," he said Thursday.

So, how cold did it get?

"It's been 28 degrees for about an hour in north-central Iowa. In the low-lying areas, it has a coating of frost. I would call it a killing frost there," Agriculture.com Marketing Talk senior contributor BA Deere said Thursday morning. "My corn is black layered, beans have all turned and dropping leaves here and there, so this frost has to ding 'em a little. There are green soybeans in the area. I hear of corn in the Dakotas that hasn't dented yet. This cold snap has to grawlix the yield overall a little."

The Canadian air mass causing the cold snap ended up bringing with it a hard freeze in central and northern Minnesota, with frost noted in eastern North Dakota, northeastern South Dakota, northern Iowa, Minnesota and western Wisconsin, according to meteorologist Don Keeney with MDA EarthSat Weather.

"Coldest temperatures that I can find would include 27 at Mason City (Iowa), 28 at Worthington (Minnesota), 28 at Marshall (Minnesota), 29 at Bismarck (North Dakota), and 29 at Jamestown (North Dakota)," adds Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., meteorologist Craig Solberg.

The area affected by the frost crept a little further south than Solberg says he expected, with points like Cedar Rapids and Marhalltown in Iowa dipping below the freezing mark Thursday morning. Parts of northeastern Nebraska also registered temperatures at or just below the freezing mark, Solberg adds.

"It's 28 in Clarion, Iowa, right now. Dropped to 26 for several hours already," says Marketing Talk senior contributor Mizzou_Tiger. "There are a lot of miles between Clarion and Canada."

So, what's the early tally of potential damage from the freezing snap? Though the farmers in the coolest parts of the region Thursday morning will find little solace in the fact, MDA's Keeney says the area affected should be fairly small in terms of the nation's crop.

"The cold is ending crop growth in the region, although damage to soybeans is occurring in well less than 10% of the Corn Belt," he says.

Looking ahead, the frost threat is likely out of the way for at least the next few days after Thursday night and Friday morning, according to Thursday's Ag Weather report from Commodity Weather Group (CWG). The coolest temperatures will likely shift east of where they were found Thursday morning.

"The threat tonight will be minimal as the cold conditions tonight centered in Wisconsin and Michigan should only produce scattered light frost," according to CWG.

Adds Keeney: "Readings should continue to moderate this weekend."

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