Northern Corn Belt Warms Up, South America to Receive Needed Rain

Planting’s been slow in parts of Brazil and Argentina, but rainfall is expected to relieve the countries.

The end of 2019 is looming, and many Corn Belt farmers are likely looking forward to putting the chaotic weather year behind them and moving on to 2020.

The weekend before Christmas forecasts bring a rise in temperature across the Midwest. Meanwhile, the growing season in South America picks up, and the mostly dry start will be relieved with some needed rain.

North Dakota

Looking at the U.S., the northern Corn Belt battled some of the worst weather conditions throughout the region.

The USDA wrapped up its weekly 2019 crop progress reports on December 9. In that report, Wisconsin and North Dakota checked in at the bottom two spots among the top 18 corn-producing states. North Dakota trailed at 43% completion, and Wisconsin came in at 74%.

Since then, frigid temperatures spread to North Dakota after a mild first week. In Fargo, North Dakota, the temperature averaged 6°F. below normal in December, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler. 

Narrowing the time frame to December 9-19, the 10-day stretch has been around 12°F. below normal in the area, Mohler says.

With the brutal cold, the ground froze deep, but temperatures are expected to jump this weekend.

“The ground’s been frozen to a pretty significant depth,” Mohler says about North Dakota. “My guess would be a foot, but you do have snow on the ground that insulates things and slows down the freezing process, but I’m pretty sure it’s thick enough. It looks like they’re going to have two days that daytime highs are in the 40s, [Saturday] and Sunday.”

While the ground faces warmer temperatures over the weekend, it should see more cold temperatures during the week of Christmas. 

“By next week it’s back down in the 20s again – 20s and low 30s for daytime highs and the nights are below freezing,” Mohler says. “My feeling on this is that the top layer may be an inch or something and may get a little soft, but it would freeze right back up at night. With the weather going back to cold next week – it’s not super cold next week – but it’s cold enough that the daytime highs are below freezing and the nights are down in the teens.”

It could soften a bit, but Mohler expects the above-freezing temperatures to not be strong enough or last long enough to make a big difference.

Mohler says if it does soften a little on top, and he anticipates the top inch or so of the ground could do so, the ground could get slick in areas.

Wisconsin

Minnesota is mostly in the same boat as North Dakota, but its neighboring state – Wisconsin – hasn’t experienced the extreme cold that North Dakota has. 

“It’s been cold there, but not nearly as cold,” Mohler says. “For example, in La Crosse the temperature departure for the month of December is right at normal. It has not been as cold in Wisconsin.”

Areas outside of the northwest corner of the Corn Belt also are expected to see the warmer stretch last for a longer period.

Argentina

The Argentine soybean planting season reached 61% completion as of last week, according to the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange.

The progress has been slow due to dryness in the country. Fortunately for farmers in the region, rain is expected to assist the end of planting season and the growing season.

“The weather pattern looks favorable here for growth of crops – pretty consistent rains over the next two weeks, no long spells of hot weather. There will be some shorter spells when it’s in the 90s,” Mohler says. “They’re getting more consistent rain. There’s a pretty good front coming through [Friday] with some rain, and then there will be some additional rains next week.”

The short-term outlook is positive, and the longer-term look follows suit. 

Typically, January marks an important month as soybean planting wraps up, and soybeans start flowering in February and March.

“Even beyond that, you go into early January, it looks like they’re going to see two to three weeks of consistent rainfall,” Mohler says. “It may dry out a little if you get toward the middle of January, but at least for the next two or three weeks, things look pretty favorable.”

The favorable rains are widespread across the country’s growing areas, according to Mohler.

Brazil

The northeast part of Brazil remains in the spotlight as drought-like conditions continue to affect the area. Brazil leans on areas outside the northeast portion for crops, but the area does contribute to the country’s agriculture.

Brazil checked in at 95% complete for soybean planting, and a good chunk of the country’s 5% unplanted area falls on the northeastern part of the country, according to Soybean and Crop Advisor.

READ MORE: Brazil's Soybean Planting Nears End, Asian Rust On Early Growth

The northeast possesses less of a role with crops because of drier conditions. The area generally has a later rainy season, but it’s been extended in 2019.

“That area’s been very dry this growing season, so far,” Mohler says. “It does look like they’re going to get some rain when you get out into early- to mid-January. The question there is, in the Northeast is, is it too late to help much? I think there’s going to be some improvement on the crops, but the dryness has been pretty hard on the crops in that area. Now, that’s only a small percentage of the total Brazilian crops out of that region, but that area’s been hit pretty hard with drought.”

Outside of the dry northeast section, the rest of Brazil will also greet rainfall as 2019 ends and 2020 begins. 

The areas outside of the northeast consist of heavier agricultural areas and should pick up the slack if the northeast struggles with its yields.

“Favorable, very favorable,” Mohler says. “I think there’s a big enough area in Brazil that the weather’s been favorable that it’s just going to wipe out any crop deficits in the northeast corner, unless there’s something grown exclusively in the northeast, but certainly with soybeans and corn it’s not exclusive.”

The northeast part of Brazil also grows fruits and cocoa, according to Brazil.org.

“I think Brazil’s in line for a pretty good crop year, at least for the grains – corn, beans,” Mohler says.

READ MORE: GRAIN-Soybeans Ease As Favorable Rains Head To Rival South American Suppliers

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