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Normal Freeze May Hurt Crops Even as Early Freeze Chances Low

Odds of an early freeze now 20%, but normal cold weather may impact corn and soybeans.

The potential for an early freeze has been a hot-button topic in recent weeks due to how late crops were planted, but at this point, even a normally timed freeze would affect crops, according to meteorologists.

The odds of an early cold snap now sit at about 20%, said David Streit, an agricultural meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland. Normally that’d be good news for producers in the Corn Belt.

All the rain in the spring that delayed planting, however, has left crops susceptible to even what he’d call a normal time frame for freezing weather.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s unlikely we’ll see an early freeze, but even a normal freeze would cause some problems,” Streit told

About 11% of U.S. corn had yet to enter the dough stage as of Sunday, according to the USDA. With planted acreage pegged at about 90 million acres, that means about 10 million acres still haven’t moved to that growth stage.

Only 55% of the crop was dented at the start of this week, well behind the prior five-year average pace of 77% for this time of year, the USDA said. Eleven percent of the corn crop was mature as of Sunday compared with the average of 24%.

Some 92% of U.S. soybeans is setting pods, when normally the entirety of the crop would have been through the stage by now, according to the government.

The warmer-than-normal pattern that’s characterized Midwestern weather so far this year doesn’t look like it’s going to break down too quickly, but there is potential by the end of the month that temperatures could drop drastically.

Streit gives a 35% to 40% chance that some parts of the Corn Belt could see freezing weather by the end of September.

“Most of the longer-range guidance beyond the next two weeks shows a brief opportunity to pull down a cold-air mass out of Canada, but that’d be around the end of this month,” he said.

Accuweather said in a report this week that it expects not only production but also the quality of the corn and soybean crops to be down this year.

The forecaster pegged corn output at 13.36 billion bushels, down from 14.42 billion in 2018, the lowest since 2012. Yield is expected to decline 5.3%.

The firm estimates soybean production at 3.658 billion bushels, well behind last year’s 4.543 billion bushels and the lowest since 2013. Yield is forecast to decline 7.9% annually, Accuweather said.

Drought ravaged crops in 2012 and 2013.

The USDA will release its monthly production estimates in its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) Report tomorrow. Last mont, the agency pegged corn production at 13.901 billion bushels and soybean output at 3.68 billion bushels.

In the next seven to 10 days, however, rainfall and warm weather are expected in much of the Corn Belt, Donald Keeney, an agricultural meteorologist with Maxar in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

That’s good news for plants in the northern Midwest where “limited rains the rest of the week will favor corn and soybeans as the crops reach maturation,” he said in a report.  The precipitation should favor northern areas through Friday with some showers lingering in far west-central areas into the weekend.

CWG’s Streit said in the next week or so he expects “lots of warm weather.”

It’s going to be wetter-than-normal as well in the northern Midwest. For now, however, it’s too early for the precipitation to have an impact on corn and soybean harvesting, but if the pattern doesn’t shift, it’s possible the wet weather could affect crop collection down the road.

He said he’s keeping one eye on potential hurricanes, but at least, at this point, it doesn’t look like any major storms will have an effect on Midwestern crops.  

“We’re watching the tropics, as always, but right now, it looks like most of the activity in the Atlantic has its eyes focused on the southeastern part of the country,” Streit said. “So it may pick on the Carolinas and Georgia some more.”

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