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Southern Plains Likely Dry Through Winter, Lack of Rain May Hurt Wheat

Dry Weather May Hurt Winter Wheat, Though Growers Planted Into Wet Soils

Hard-red winter wheat growers in the southern Plains are facing chances of below-normal precipitation through February, continuing a streak of dry weather that’s persisted in the past month.

Commodity Weather Group said in its seasonal agricultural outlook this week that it expects rainfall will come in below average through the winter.

Little or no rain has fallen in most of Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle in the past 30 days, according to the National Weather Service. Still, the area is faring fairly well as it’s only abnormally dry – meaning no drought conditions are yet seen – in the area, according to the US Drought Monitor.

Larry Glenn, a broker with Frontier Ag in Quinter, Kan., said it’s a bit early to be worried about the dry weather, especially since growers planted their hard-red winter wheat into moist soils, but there’s been a noticeable lack of precipitation since planting.

 “We had wet weather that delayed planting, which is probably going to cut back on some acres, but we haven’t had any moisture since then, so it’s definitely drying out,” he said. “Down in Oklahoma I hear it’s the same way.”

Still, Glenn said, it’s the weather in the spring that makes or breaks a winter wheat crop, so many farmers aren’t yet too concerned about the dry spell. The good news for growers is that after February the chances of precipitation return to normal, which could help the wheat crop, CWG meteorologists said.

 “Plains dryness persists this winter, but return to normal rains in spring could still avert below trend yields,” the forecasters said.

Temperatures are expected to be near- to above-normal this spring, and drier weather is projected in the Plains and Midwest if the current La Nina pattern lasts longer and is strong than expected.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said earlier this year there’s a 65% to 75% chance that the La Nina weather pattern will last at least through the winter, though it’s expected to be relatively weak.

That will keep temperatures in the southern U.S., including southwestern Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, above normal during the next three months, according to the NOAA. Temperatures in the northern Plains and much of the central and eastern Midwest will be below normal this winter, the agency said.

The La Nina weather pattern also will affect South American crop weather, which could move prices.

Forecast models show northeastern Brazil drier overall, while central parts of the country will be wetter-than-normal, CWG said. The biggest risk to crops in Brazil will be in the northeastern third of its growing region and the southern third of its safrinha, or second crop, in March.

Guidance from at least two weather models shows drier weather in northern Brazil with the odds for such a trend highest if the South Atlantic cools, CWG said.

Argentina will be drier but cooler in January and warmer in February, the forecaster said. There’s concern about the dry weather in the country, especially in western growing areas.

“Argentina is at risk for intermittent dryness but less of a concern for significant drought,” CWG said. “January showers are scaled back (in the latest forecast) in Argentina but offer brief relief for corn and soy. Drier trends (are expected) in the balance of the growing season along with risks for hotter periods in December and February could lead to below trend yields due to stress in up to half of corn and soy (areas), most consistently west.”

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