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The heat is on

It wasn't long ago when excessive moisture, field ponding and flooding were the biggest crop concerns in much of the Corn Belt. But now, it's the opposite extreme that could start influencing crop progress, namely for corn, at a crucial time.

"July is always an important time in the grain markets given that most of the corn crop pollinates during that period, but the upcoming time period looks especially important given that (a) we have a key part of the Midwest that has turned dry over the past 2-3 weeks; and (b) another round of heat is in the Midwest forecast in the not-so-distant future," says Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., ag meteorologist Craig Solberg.

That growing heat will start to lean on the corn crop fairly heavily, especially as soil moisture reserves are drawn out, adds Commodity Weather Group (CWG), LLC, ag services director Joel Widenor.

"Heat will cause temperatures to rise into the mid to upper 90s in mainly Missouri and Kansas by Sunday and then increase to near 100 [Fahrenheit] in southern Iowa, southern Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana with the warm-ups late next week and toward the end of the 11 to 15 day period," Widenor says. "This will draw down moisture reserves and put at least minor stress on early pollinating corn in about 1/3 of the belt."

The good news is, though daytime temperatures will be generally above normal over the next 2 weeks, nighttime temperatures will drop to the 70s, and that will fuel better corn pollination during those hours. In the southern Corn Belt climes, though, that relief will be shorter-lived.

"Low temperatures are projected to run persistently in the 70s for these southwestern areas as well over the next 2 weeks," Widenor says. "This is a factor that had an impact on last year’s corn crop during pollination as well (cool nights help corn to 'relax' and maximize yield potential during the warmer daytime hours), and the concern is that the risk is increasing for a similar impact this year in southwestern sections of the belt."

The potential swings in weather-related crop development in the next 10 to 15 days could insert more volatility into the grain markets, Solberg adds. In the short term, look for the trade to sharpen its focus on Mother Nature.

"A good part of the 2011 U.S. corn crop is going to be pollinating when that heat is present, so its timing really could not be much worse," he says. "Look for a volatile Sunday night trading session as the trade again assesses near-term rainfall odds and gets an update on the heat expected for the middle of this month."

Looking further down the road, the dry, hot conditions that could hamper corn pollination in the near term could have a greater impact on soybean development next month, Widenor says.

"The risk for continued warm and increasingly dry conditions by early August in the northwestern Midwest could also threaten filling corn and soybeans down the road," he adds.

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