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Brazil's Planting Season Ends Dry, U.S. Corn Harvest Ending Cold

Spring Looks Dry for the U.S.; Needed Rain to Hit Brazil, While Argentina Misses Out.

The USDA finished its 2019 weekly crop progress report on Monday, but corn harvest continues in a handful of states listed on the report.

Meanwhile, planting nears the finish line in Brazil, while Argentina struggles with dry conditions. 

Overall, the north portion of the Midwest received cold, but favorable conditions to carry on any late harvesting, and the soybean-intensive areas in South America project to be relieved with some rainfall.

Cold Fall Finish

Fall technically concludes on December 21, but winter-like weather spread across the Midwest this week – specifically in the northern parts of the region.

Monday’s temperature decline comes after a warm stretch, where mid-30s hit the northern states, creating softer conditions. On Tuesday morning, Fargo, North Dakota, reached -15°F., according to AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler.

“I would imagine everything is rock solid up there that’s exposed [Tuesday] morning,” Mohler says. “I think it’s good news to get the ground frozen up like that – places that have been a little wet or too soft are just frozen solid now, and that’s going to continue to be the case this late in the season.”

While the Corn Belt’s faced frozen ground conditions that allowed harvest to chug along in November, the area has bounced back and forth between freezing and thawing in many areas.

Fortunately, for farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Mohler expects the ground to stay frozen, supporting equipment.

“Even if you get a mild spell – a mild spell means it gets to [around] 25°F. – and even if it got to 30°F. or 35°F. for a few hours it would just make it a little soft on the very top, but you’re freezing down deep when it gets this cold,” Mohler says.

Those states need all the help from Mother Nature they could get. The USDA reported corn harvest at 43% complete in North Dakota, 83% complete in South Dakota, 93% complete in Minnesota, 74% complete in Wisconsin and Michigan, compared with an average of 92% completion rate in the top 18 corn-producing states.

Read More: Corn Harvest in 92% Complete

Al Kluis, Kluis Advisors, pegs the remaining unharvested corn crop at 6 million acres with the majority remaining in those five states.

Mohler notes areas like Fargo that hold around 8 inches of snow on the ground could see a slower depth and pace of the ground freezing, as the snow acts as an insulator to the ground.

Frigid Winter on Deck

While a cold finish to fall may propel farmers in the fields, it appears the chilly weather will stick around through the winter into 2020.

“We think [in] the northern Plains, the upper Midwest, the Great Lakes, it’s a pretty cold winter,” Mohler says. “Temperatures [could] be 2°F. to 3°F. degrees below normal for the winter as a whole.”

With issues already popping up late this fall from propane infrastructure limitations, it’s worth monitoring the propane situation if the cold projections hold up.

Read More: Energy Report Shows Falling Corn Belt Supplies

Mohler says the southern portion of the Corn Belt, including Missouri and Illinois, will see more typical winter weather. He also points out that in recent years bitter cold has broken into the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, but he expects the cold air to shift east instead of south this winter. 

“It seems like it will be a little more eastly movement once the cold air masses get into the northern part of the country,” Mohler says. “[Projections show a] cold winter across the Northern tier of the U.S. from the Plains to New England and closer to normal from the central Plains through the Ohio Valley.”

Positive Planting Outlook

It’s still a ways out, but after the 2019 planting season, farmers likely already have next year’s spring on their radar.

It won’t take much for the 2020 planting season to be drier than the previous year, but as of early December forecasts, the farmers appear to be in for a drier planting season than last year – and potentially drier than average.

“I think it looks fairly favorable, right now. I don’t think it’s nearly as wet as last year; it could even be drier than normal, which would speed things up,” Mohler says. “The only thing that may slow it down a little bit is late March [and] early April may be a little bit on the [cooler] side, which could slow things down a little bit. Overall, I think it’s going to be a much better planting season than last year because it looks drier.”

Brazil Showers

The end of the year roughly marks the end of Brazil’s planting season for soybeans. The country’s progress jumped to 93% in the latest report from AgRural.

Read More: Brazil Soy Plantings 93% Complete, in Line With Average – Report

Brazil sits slightly behind its completion rate compared with last year, but the country tackled more planting this year.

Forecasters predict Brazil will pass the U.S. in terms of soybean production with 121.4 million tons projected by FCStone – a 5.5% increase from the previous year, according to SLC Sementes

So far, Brazil has faced minor challenges with drier conditions, but Mohler anticipates a good amount of rain to sweep through southern Brazil, pushing drought concerns to the side.

“They’re going to get some good rain this weekend,” Mohler says. “Any dryness issues are pretty minor I think in Brazil, at least in Southern Brazil, there’s a little more extensive dryness up in the far northeast. It’s been a little dry recently, so just on top it’s getting dry, but I think they get 1 to 3 inches of rain this weekend, so that should take care of any dryness there.”

While January slows down agriculture in the U.S., it’s an important month for South America. For Brazil, almost all the crops should be planting, meaning January is an important month for growth.

Mohler expects favorable precipitation in the country with a normal amount of rainfall.

Argentina’s Uncertainty

Argentina faces a slower start to the planting season than Brazil did with 39% of the soybeans planted, as of December 5, according to Soybean and Corn Advisor

Mohler cites dryness as the key variable to Argentina’s sluggish start in the 2019/20 season. Argentina’s planting season is pushed back a little more than Brazil, but January is still a key month with harvest wrapping up.

Brazil benefits from a normal precipitation month of January, but Mohler is less confident in Argentina’s precipitation outlook.

“I’m not as certain that it gets normal rainfall in Argentina as I am Brazil,” Mohler says. “I think in Argentina, we could have some dryness issues lasting through most of the growing season, just maybe western Argentina or southern Argentina, Cordoba, La Pampa, western Buenos Aires provinces, those areas could be drier than normal for a good chunk of the summer – a good chunk of the growing season, but they should get some helpful rains late next week.”

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