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Heat's cranking up

Jeff Caldwell 06/27/2012 @ 10:26am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The mercury's cranking up in the nation's midsection this week -- in some spots well beyond the triple-digit mark -- pouring salt on the open wound of worsening drought conditions in the Plains and Corn Belt. And, for the corn crop that is entering the key pollination period, the outlook is a grim one.

"An increasing percentage of the Midwest corn crop will moving into the pollination stage in the near future and some very stressful weather is also expected into next week," Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., senior ag meteorologist Craig Solberg said Wednesday morning.

Specifically, corn yield potential loss from the drought during the next couple of weeks will be worst in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, southern Nebraska, southeastern Iowa and Kansas, according to the Chicago-based Commodity Weather Group (CWG).

"It is possible that another surge of heat next week could push mid 90s to lower 100s into the southwestern half of the Midwest. Showers in the 6- to 15-day continue to favor the northeastern Midwest," according to CWG on Wednesday. "The concern is that much of the southwestern half of the Midwest will be pollinating under adverse conditions over the next 2 weeks."

Some farmers say the heat and dryness has gotten to the point where even under irrigation, row crops are hurting.

"I have irrigation, and I can't remember the last time I saw the ground take in so much water. Dad says in '83 or '88, it was so dry and windy that only the guys who furrow irrigated could keep up, because it was hot, dry, and windy like this all summer and pivots just had too much evaporation," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk advisor Nebrfarmr, who adds a couple of nearby towns saw temperatures of 115 degrees on Tuesday with winds around 30 miles per hour.

On Friday, USDA will release its latest estimates for the U.S. corn crop size, and while many feel the agency will come in well higher than what the crop will actually make, others see the numbers adding up as much as 20 bushels/acre lower than the yield many said U.S. farmers would need to raise to meet demand for the crop.

"I doubt USDA lowers yields that much in the coming report. They will probably be in the 160 range," says Marketing Talk senior contributor Blacksandfarmer. "I doubted 166 from day one! They kept prices low for months and the grain continued to move. I don't know what the weather will bring over the next two weeks but things are getting pretty dire in some key parts of the Corn Belt."

On the other end of the spectrum, some traders in Chicago said earlier this week the corn market's been trading a number closer to 147 bushels/acre.

But, corn's not the only crop hurting out there. Though pollination's underway for that crop already, soybeans are also developing ahead of the normal schedule, and as they enter reproductive stages, the water shortage many areas have seen could be a major problem soon.

"Drought stress at later vegetative stages of development has similar results: shoot growth is decreased or stopped, but roots can continue to grow. This evolutionary response in soybean allows the plant to search for additional soil water while having an overall low water use rate," says Iowa State University agronomist Andy Lenssen. "Soybean yield is most sensitive to water deficits during reproduction. Soil water deficits during reproductive growth phase results in increased flower abortion, reduced pod number, reduced seed per pod, and small seed. Short-term, moderate drought stress during vegetative growth stages generally does not impact soybean yield. Conversely, longer-term severe drought stress can cause irreversible plant cell death causing low growth yield."

   

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