If we subsidize the planting of crops which year after year are blown out by drought or swamped by heavy rains, we will continue to get people planting these sorts of crops. If the climate changes (which it always does over time) and a crop becomes untenable in a certain area subsidies encourage farmers not to find solutions, but to continue doing what they have been doing, even if it makes no sense. (If one actually wants to generate a crop.)
“We have given farmers incentives to take on more risk rather than give them an incentive to create a permanent solution,” said Vincent Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University in Bozeman. “You want to move toward programs that allow them to alleviate problems before the fact.”
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Crops suffer in spring cold snap
The unseasonably cold spring is having an impact on Britain’s wheat and vegetable crops.
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent7:32AM BST 06 Apr 2013
For signs of just how exceptionally cold this spring has been, look to the fields of rural Britain.
Farmers are reporting stunted crops and ground that is still to hard to drill at a time when wheat is normally growing vigorously, oil seed rape is preparing to bloom and foods such as peas and beans are being planted to ensure they are ready for harvest.
Temperatures over the past week fell to among the coldest seen in April for 96 years. Normally Britain enjoys an average temperature of 12 degrees C by the start of April, but even maximum temperatures struggled to rise above 1 degree C in some parts of the south east.
While snow flurries have helped to remind us that winter has yet to release its icy grip on Britain, they are not unusual at this time of year.
It has been the extreme cold that has surprised meteorologists. On Tuesday temperatures fell to -11.2 degrees C in Braemar, the joint coldest weather seen anywhere in the UK in April for 96 year.
Two other years have brought similarly cold conditions – 1961 and 1978 – while the first time it was older was in 1917 when temperatures in Cumbria reached -15 degrees C.
Since the start of the year, forecasters have seen a weakening of the jet stream, the current of air that flows high in the atmosphere around the North Pole. This has been pushed further south than normal, carrying the normal milder spring weather seen here in Britain to Spain and the Mediterranean.
Without this fast flowing barrier of air to hem them in, cold blasts of air have swept in from eastern and north eastern Europe, bringing the prolonged wintry conditions.
Official statistics from the Met Office released during the week showed that March was the joint second coldest on record. The country received just three quarters of its usual sunshine levels and crop reports are already showing signs of the toll this has taken.
Farmers say that growth of important crops such as wheat and oil seed rape have been severely stunted while the frozen ground has meant just 15 per cent of the planned spring cereal crops have been planted.
Normally they would have hoped to have planted at least half by the end of March.
The poor crop growth could mean that Britain will need to import millions of tonnes of wheat and other cereals this year.
Keith Norman, technical director from Velcourt, which offers advise on farm management, said: “Oil Seed rape and winter wheat are suffering tremendously from the weather conditions.
“I’ve been visiting fields from Wiltshire up to East Anglia and I’ve never seen crops so backward – which is of huge concern.
“We are probably facing a harvest in 2013 that will the worst in most people’s living memory.”
Livestock farmers have also suffered heavy losses at the start of the lambing season with 20,000 more sheep perishing this year compared to last year. Around 5,000 more cattle have also died this spring compared to in 2012.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:24 am
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Drought that ravaged US crops likely to worsen in 2013, forecast warns
Noaa predicts tough spring for already struggling farmers as growing demand for water leaves US more exposed dry seasons
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 21 March 2013 18.12 GMT
Hotter, drier conditions are predicted across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Photograph: John Sommers Ii/Reuters
The historic drought that laid waste to America’s grain and corn belt is unlikely to ease before the middle of this year, a government forecast warned on Thursday.
The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.
The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.
"It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather," Laura Furgione, the deputy director of Noaa’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.
Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.
The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy
The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51% of the country. But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the Noaa scientists said.
The agency was forecasting above-normal temperatures in the south-west and other parts of the country, with only the Pacific north-west expected to experience below-normal temperatures.
It said drought conditions were likely to remain in the central and western parts of the country, and could expand in California, the south-west, the southern Rockies and Texas. The Florida panhandle should also anticipate drought conditions, according to the forecast.
Scientists warned of an increased risk of wildfires, because of the dry conditions, for parts of Minnesota and northern Iowa.
Other areas of the country however were in line for floods, with the most significant along the Red and Souris Rivers in North Dakota. Noaa said it was also expecting some 20,000 acres of farm land to be flooded in the Devil’s Lake area of North Dakota.
Some flooding was also expected along the upper Mississippi into southern Wisconsin, northern Missouri and parts of South Dakota and Iowa.
Meanwhile, a poor snowpack suggests the drought will persist in the Rocky Mountain states and California.
"The drought that we accumulated over the last five or six years in the middle part of the country and also the south-west is going to take a long time to remove," said Furgione. "The deficits in the soil and very unlarged, and it is very unlikely the seasonal mean precipitation will ameliorate that."
Farmers had been anticipating a poor start to the growing season, especially in the south-west and areas such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where the drought has not relaxed its grip.
Farmers in some areas did not even bother to plant winter wheat this year.
The prospect of another dry year caused concern along the Mississippi where low levels held up barge traffic last year. A coalition of mayors from towns along the river visited Washington this week to press for funds to keep the waterway open.
"If the river is shut out, that’s $300m a day that is affected by that in economic losses because you can not shift the traffic up and down the river," said Hyram Copeland, mayor of Vidalia, Louisiana.
Communities across the wheat and corn-growing areas, that took the brunt of last year’s drought, had been looking for heavy snows and rains this winter to prime the land for the next planting season.
"The bottom line is we need a big spring because we do not have the buffer or carryover we did coming into 2012," Mark Svoboda, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, told a forum on Wednesday.
However, the forecast suggests that big spring will not materialise.
The scientists also note a growing demand for water – for cities, for agriculture – is leaving the country even more exposed to hotter, drier years like 2012.
"We have seen changes to our vulnerability to drought," Svoboda said. "More straws in the drink is putting more demand on a finite water resource."
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:14 am
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Weather woes hit hopes for huge SA corn, soy crops
Hopes for big South American crops buyers are relying on to fill supply gaps left by drought-hit US harvests took a knock with the first talk that a difficult sowing season had curtailed yield harvest.
The run of upgrades to Brazil’s soybean crop went into reverse as Michael Cordonnier, the respected crop scout, trimmed his forecast to 80m tonnes, from 81m-83m tonnes, albeit still a record high.
He warned that a downgrade was on the way to his forecast for Argentine corn too, following persistent rains which have left "fields two-feet deep in water as far as the eye can see".
And, separately, Oil World cautioned that "there is now a higher risk that initial estimates of a sharp increase in [South American] soybean production… will not fully materialise".
The analysis group has pegged the continent’s 2012-13 soybean output at 153.5m tonnes, a rise of 36m tonnes year on year.
The downgrades follow a further period of weather extremes, following last season’s drought, which has landed much of Argentina and southern Brazil with excessive rain, while leaving many central and northern parts of Brazil with too little moisture.
"Excessive rainfall has reportedly been received on roughly 50% of the total Argentine oilseed and grain area," Oil World said.
Dr Cordonnier, noting that Argentine corn sowings were 38% complete, some 20 points behind last year, said that "planting is very troublesome", adding that the slow rate of seedins was "becoming a big issue".
"Argentina is not going to get a lot of corn planted any time soon,"
While this could boost production of soybeans, as farmers switch to a crop which can be later planted, it was not clear that farmers "will not have problems planting soybeans as well", he told Agrimoney.com.
‘Very hot and very dry’
In Brazil, soybean sowings were also running behind, by as much as 20 points in Goias, where weather has been "very hot and very dry", with temperatures reaching 103 degrees Fahrenheit, Dr Cordonnier, at Soybean and Corn Advisor, said.
Oil World said that Brazil’s soybean sowings were lagging by 1.3m-1.5m hectares, as of October 19, adding that it was likely that "in the first or second week of November there will be headlines circulating in newswires about alarming soybean planting delays of around 3m hectares behind last year’s pace in Argentina and Brazil combined".
The problem for the central and northerly regions was that in some areas, such as the western part of top soybean-growing state Mato Grosso, the first rains arrived on schedule last month, prompting farmers to make a start on sowings.
"But they never got the second rains" needed to support the crop, Dr Cordonnier said.
Germination rates were, at 25-35%, poor, meaning many farmers were "waiting for rain, and will then replant".
Rains are in fact forecast for the next two days, which could have a significant influence.
"it’s time to get the stuff in the ground. It has been a spotty start to the growing season."
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:49 am
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Canada, EU join list with heat-damaged corn crops
Canada and the European Union joined countries facing a disappointing corn harvest after heat and drought cut yield prospects, as already highlighted in Ukraine and the US.
The US Department of Agriculture cut by 1.1m tonnes to 11.7m tonnes its forecast for the Canadian corn harvest, noting reports that in some regions "hot and dry conditions in July stressed the crop, resulting in poor pollination".
The downgrade implies a rise of less than 8% in Canada’s corn production, despite a rise in sowings of nearly twice as much.
The USDA also sliced by 4.4m tonnes to 57.1m tonnes its forecast for the EU crop – the world’s fourth biggest after US, Chinese and Brazilian harvests – also citing "summer heat and drought damage".
"Yield potential has been falling rapidly in the EU since July when extremely high temperatures inhibited pollination and drought limited kernel growth in much of the EU’s corn belt," the USDA said, following a crop tour to some eastern growing countries.
"The primary corn-growing areas have all struggled from excessive heat and moisture stress this season," dashing expectations of a "bumper crop" which appeared likely earlier in the season.
In Hungary, "much of which has seen no significant rainfall since July", production is seen falling 38% year on year to 5.0m tonnes.
The French crop, the EU’s biggest, was downgraded by 1.0m tonnes to 15.5m tonnes, putting a decline from last year’s result on the cards.
The fresh estimate for the overall EU harvest implied a 12.6% drop from last year’s strong result, which enabled the bloc to achieve exports of 3.2m tonnes in 2011-12, the highest in 40 years.
Indeed, the USDA cut to a seven-year low of 500,000 tonnes its forecast for EU corn shipments in 2012-13.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:41 pm
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After drought blights crops, U.S. farmers face toxin threat
Michael Hirtzer and Meredith Davis, Reuters | Updated: August 15, 2012
The worst U.S. drought in five decades has parched the land and decimated crops. It now threatens to deal a second blow to farmers, who may have to throw out tonnes of toxic feed.
Growers are rushing to check the nitrate levels of that silage, the stalks and leaves that corn farmers often harvest to feed to locally raised cattle or hogs.
Agriculture groups are warning farmers that drought-hit plants may have failed to process nitrogen fertilizer due to stunted growth, making them poisonous to livestock.
Exceptionally early spring planting has caused a crush of early summer requests for the tests. Farmers are also expected to chop down a near-record swathe of their fields for silage to make up for this year’s poor yields.
"We’ve had a lot of walk-in business and normally we are not a walk-in business," said Lola Manning, a 30-year employee of Agri-King, a laboratory that tests for nitrates and other toxins. "At this point it’s the busiest I’ve seen it."
Manning said the facility, approved by the National Forage Testing Association, checked about 400 samples — roughly double the norm — in July.
So far, few samples have shown elevated levels of toxins, she said. But late-season rains — far too tardy to help salvage the corn crop — could prompt mostly mature plants to draw even more nitrogen out of the soil and into the stalks.
"The tests are coming out OK but as soon as they have rain, the situation will change," Manning said.
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Two months of dry weather and high heat that stunted plants and shriveled ears likely caused the absorption of excessive amounts of nitrogen, experts say. Instead of being distributed safely through the plant, the chemical built up in the lower portions of the stalk at potentially toxic levels.
Kenny Wagler, a dairy farmer in Nashville, Indiana who also farms 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) of corn and pasture, is testing his corn for the first time since the last major drought in 1988.
"It’s almost never a factor," said Wagler, who raises about 1,500 dairy cows and cattle, adding that he is testing this year on recommendation from his farm nutritionist.
Nearly half of what he typically harvests to sell as a cash corn crop will be cut for silage this year because most of the plants had no ears of grain.
In the worst-case scenario, silage with high levels of nitrate can be absorbed into an animal’s bloodstream, causing poisoning leading to death.
The absorption causes hemoglobin to be converted to methemoglobin, which is incapable of transporting oxygen and so can be fatal to the animal, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Symptoms of nitrate poisoning include labored breathing, rapid heartbeat, weakness, lack of coordination and blue-gray discolored skin.
Extensive losses of livestock are an unlikely, extreme scenario, beef and dairy experts say.
"Certainly there are instances of dead cattle from nitrate," said Chris Hurt, agriculture economist at Purdue University. "Widespread education has helped reduce the problem."
But nitrate-laced silage would force those farmers to buy extra feed grains in order to sustain their animals.
LOW GRAIN YIELDS, MORE SILAGE?
Silage is usually harvested while plants are still green and contain a high level of moisture. It is then fermented, often in silos. Many dairy farmers raise corn specifically for silage, in part to avoid having to buy feed elsewhere.
The rest of the crop is allowed to mature and is harvested as grain to be sold to elevators for export or feed use, or to ethanol makers.
Farmers are expected to harvest more of their corn crop for silage than usual this season due to poor yields, which are forecast by the USDA to be the lowest in 17 years.
As many as 9 million acres — or 9 percent of the corn crop — may not be harvested for grain this year, according to USDA data released last week. That would be the most abandoned acres in a decade. Much of that will be used instead as silage.
At Agri-King in western Illinois, tests cost $8 per sample for nitrate. Farmers are advised to take six stalks, chop them up and put them into a bag for testing.
Nitrate levels under 4,400 parts per million are considered safe while those over 15,000 ppm are considered potentially toxic and should not be fed to livestock, said Randy Shaver, extension dairy nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin.
At between 8,800 and 15,000 ppm, silage should be limited to less than half of the total feed ration and well fortified with minerals, data from that university showed. However, acceptable nitrate levels vary slightly from state to state.
"We’ve had quite a few tests that have come in at 14,000 parts per million or higher, and that seems to come up after a rain," said Travis Meteer, a beef extension specialist at the University of Illinois, one of several universities to issue bulletins about nitrates in silage in recent weeks.
LIVESTOCK PAIN, CORN’S GAIN
If the silage proves to be toxic, farmers like Wagler could be forced to cull their herds, as many ranchers are doing. Or they could buy additional grains from the cash market to feed their livestock — incurring extra expenses in a year when some of their income will depend on crop insurance claims.
Extra demand could add fuel to corn prices, which have already rallied more than 60 percent in two months to a record as drought deepened across two-thirds of the country.
"It will mean higher feed costs for livestock producers," said Roger Elmore, a professor of agronomy and a corn specialist at Iowa State University. "In addition to the drought, forage quality and the quantity will be less.
"We’ll have less forage out there, so that price will also increase. All of that increases the cost of production for livestock producers," he added. (Editing by Dale Hudson)
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:02 pm
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As you read this, the United States is experiencing the worst drought it has seen since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. As you read this, nearly half of all corn crops in the United States are in “poor” or “very poor” condition. As you read this, 38 major wildfires are ripping across the central and western United States. The brutal wildfires in Oklahoma have been so bad that they have made national headlines. The price of corn has hit a brand new record high this summer and so has the price of soybeans. More than half of all the counties in this country have been declared to be “natural disaster areas” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at this point. Things are so bad for ranchers that the CEO of Smithfield Foods is projecting that meat prices will rise by “significant double digits” in the months ahead. Sadly, this drought is projected to continue throughout August and into September. As you will read about below, some meteorologists are even openly postulating that there may not be enough moisture to avoid another drought next year. Yes, things are really bad this year, but when you step back and take a look at the broader picture they become truly frightening.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of July 31st close to two-thirds of the continental United States was experiencing at least some level of drought….
Keep in mind that brown is “severe drought”, red is “extreme drought” and dark brown in “exceptional drought”.
This is truly a historic drought. We have never seen anything like this in modern times in the United States.
The week before, this is how the U.S. Drought Monitor described conditions in the center of the country….
“Over 90 percent of the topsoil was short or very short of moisture in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with virtually all (99 percent) short or very short in Missouri and Illinois”
There had been some hope that rain would bring relief to farmers in the central part of the country, but instead things just keep getting worse and worse.
At this point, close to half of all corn being grown in the U.S. is either in “poor” or “very poor” condition.
For ranchers, the outlook is even more dismal. The following is from a recent CNN article….
Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s cattle acreage is now inside a drought-stricken area, as is about two-thirds of the country’s hay acreage, the agency reported.
What that means is that a lot of animals are being slaughtered now and the price of meat is going to be moving substantially higher later in the year.
The following is what the CEO of Smithfield Foods, Larry Pope, recently told the Financial Times….
Beef is simply going to be too expensive to eat. Pork is not going to be too far behind. Chicken is catching up fast. Are we really going to take protein away from Americans?
He also told the Financial Times that he expects meat prices to rise by “significant double digits”.
Those are very frightening statements.
The CEO of a major food company says that beef is going to “be too expensive to eat”?
That doesn’t sound good at all.
Meanwhile, this drought is absolutely devastating farmers and ranchers all over the United States….
“When I was a kid in the ’50s … it got real dry, but nothing like this,” said Marvin Helms, a 70-year-old farmer and rancher in central Arkansas who was compelled to sell his beef cattle after being short on feed.
His thousand acres of farmland near Arkadelphia include corn and soybeans, which Helms says is normally sufficient to sustain his family and provide for his cattle.
“We’ve got some insurance on the crops, but it’s not enough,” he said. “It will help, but it won’t pay the bills.”
Of course the federal government is going to step in and try to help these farmers and ranchers, but the truth is that the federal government is already drowning in debt. Any additional help will have to be done with more borrowed money.
It is hard to describe how oppressive the heat and the drought have been in the middle part of the nation this year. We have seen some unprecedented things happen.
For example, it got so hot in Oklahoma recently that it started melting the street lights.
Of course the main problem in Oklahoma right now is the horrible wildfires that are ravaging the state. The following is from a recent Chicago Tribune article about those fires.
Wildfires burned out of control on Friday in Oklahoma, destroying homes and shutting down highways in a state that has suffered 18 straight days of 100-plus degree temperatures and persistent drought.
Emergency officials counted 11 different wildfires around the state, with at least 65 homes destroyed in parched areas north and south of Oklahoma City and south of Tulsa.
Oklahoma joins several states that have been plagued by wildfires this summer, including Colorado, Arkansas and Nebraska. Fires are being fed by a widespread drought.
But these fires in Oklahoma are only part of a very distressing long-term trend. As I have written about previously, 6 of the 10 worst years for wildfires ever recorded in the United States have all come since the year 2000.
Another major change that we have seen is that massive dust storms called “haboobs” are becoming much more frequent in the southwest part of the country.
Just the other day, a dust storm that was approximately 2,000 feet high and nearly 100 kilometers wide ripped through the city of Phoenix, Arizona at 35 miles an hour.
Such events were once very rare in Phoenix.
But not anymore.
Meanwhile, much of the central and western United States is rapidly running out of water.
And I am not just talking about surface water.
A lot of the key aquifers that have allowed us to build cities and irrigate crops in the western half of the United States are being drained completely dry. The following is from a recent San Diego Union-Tribune article about what is happening in California….
Few places in Southern California is that more evident than the desert sands of Borrego Springs, where residents, farmers and golf course operators are sucking about four times as much water from the ground each year as nature replaces.
They’ve been pumping so hard for so long that the community’s main aquifer could essentially run dry after a few more decades. That’s a dire possibility: A recent study showed it would be prohibitively expensive to build a pipeline to an outside source.
Did you catch that last part?
The truth is that someday entire cities may have to be abandoned because it will be “prohibitively expensive” to build water pipelines stretching hundreds of miles to bring them water.
Sadly, this is not just happening in California. This kind of thing is going on all over the nation….
Similar concerns are bubbling up along San Diego County’s backcountry and across the nation — particularly in places such as the Central Valley and the Great Plains, where residents have dug deep to withstand a drought that has squeezed the nation’s midsection dry.
“It took Mother Nature in some cases thousands of years to accumulate the water in the aquifers, but we are pumping it out in mere decades,” said Robert Glennon, a law professor and water expert at the University of Arizona. “It’s a huge national and international problem. … It is utterly unsustainable and scary.”
I have previously written about how the largest underground water source in the United States, the Ogallala Aquifer, is being drained at an almost unbelievable pace. You can read my previous report about the Ogallala Aquifer right here.
So even when this summer ends our problems will be far, far from over.
But right now the most immediate concern is the condition of our corn and our soybeans.
Corn is found in about 74 percent of the products we buy in the supermarket, and it is used to feed livestock all over the country.
In addition, the United States exports more food to the rest of the world than anyone else does.
So if our crops fail that is a very big deal.
Right now, it is being reported that this drought “will likely cost the U.S. food export industry billions in lost revenue.”
Considering the fact that the “employment rate” in the United States is lower than it was during the last recession and that the U.S. economy is in the midst of a horrible long-term economic decline, this is the last thing that we need.
And what happens to all of the countries that are depending on us for food?
A recent Wired article had this startling headline….
When people cannot feed their families, they tend to lose it.
Unfortunately, this year might just be the beginning.
According to a recent article in the Guardian, some scientists say that the drought has been so bad this year that it is going to take a “freak event” to avoid catastrophic damage to next year’s corn crops….
What matters now is whether there will be enough rain to get next year’s crops off to a good start.
“This drought isn’t going anywhere,” he said. “The damage is already done. What you are looking for is enough moisture to avert a second year of drought,” he said.
However, Svoboda conceded that might require a freak event, especially in the mid-west which has already passed its rain season. “In the entire corn belt, from Indiana to Nebraska to the Dakotas, we have already reached the maximum precipitation periods for year. From here on in, it’s all downhill,” Svoboda said.
“As far as widespread general relief for the whole region it would take a really freakish dramatic change to make that happen. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards, given the time of year we are in.”
The skies are dry and our fields are scorched.
Our crops our failing and millions of acres are burning.
Our groundwater supplies are being rapidly depleted and giant dust storms are sweeping across some of our major cities.
Welcome to the new normal.
It isn’t going to be pleasant.
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Weather setbacks hurt many US crops, but not corn
Dryness – as well as hail and dust storms – has taken a toll on the condition of some US crops, but not corn, for which the proportion of the official rating stayed unchanged, defying market expectations of deterioration.
The proportion of the US corn crop viewed by the US Department of Agriculture as in "good" or "excellent" health was, as of Sunday, 72%, the same as the week before.
"Crop conditions remain favourable," Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said, adding that "excellent crop conditions are needed for US corn yields to meet the USDA’s optimistic forecast" of 166 bushels per acre.
At Benson Quinn Commodities, Jon Michalscheck said that the static figure disguised a "slightly negative yield trend bias", given that it included a decline in crop ratings in major producing, and yielding, states such as Iowa.
There the proportion of the crop rated "good" or "excellent" eased 2% to 75%, despite some rain last week.
"There are areas still in need of moisture. Crop conditions declined slightly for the second straight week although they remained rated mostly good to excellent," USDA officials said.
Indeed, many areas of the US remain in need or rain. Official data show 42% of the Midwest suffering abnormally dry or drought conditions, compared with 1.2% a year ago.
"Field conditions continue dry in the US farm belt, despite scattered showers last week, "Gail Martell at Martell Crop Projections said.
"Hot May temperatures were the culprit, keeping evaporation high and reducing the effectiveness of showers", although cooler weather is expected this week.
"Soil moisture analysis shows a decrease in field moisture across the wide swathe of the US heartland in the recent two weeks."
Dry conditions did take their toll on some crops, with the USDA pegging its first rating of this year’s soybean crop at 65%, below the 68-69% that investors had expected.
In the key soybean state of Nebraska, "showers brought moisture and improved growing conditions to portions of the east while the dry west saw conditions continue to decline".
Furthermore, "hail damaged crops and property in areas of the state and producers will have to decide if replanting will take place".
The proportion of the US rice crop in good or excellent health dropped four points to 65%.
And 52% of US winter wheat was rated in the top two condition bands, down two points on the week, despite a one-point improvement, to 40%, in the figure for Kansas, the top wheat-producing state.
‘High winds and blowing dust’
For cotton, 54% of the US crop was viewed as good or excellent, down three points on the week, reflecting a seven-point decline, to 47%, in the figure for Texas, the top US producing state.
"High winds and blowing dust damaged some recently-emerged cotton," USDA staff said.
"Overall, corn, cotton, and sorghum progressed well but needed rain in many areas."
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:00 am
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Dryness raises alarm over Western Australia crops
Western Australia joined the list of major grain-producing areas where crops are under threat of dry weather, which has already killed some canola crops, even as rains refreshed many eastern areas of Australia.
Many growers in Western Australia, Australia’s top arable state, have stopped their autumn sowing campaign because of the persistence of dry conditions which farm officials warned of three weeks ago, noting then that many areas had "very low levels of plant available water leading into winter".
The conditions, which Commonwealth Bank of Australia on Monday termed "unfavourably dry", have prevented seeds germinating in many areas, and in some others withered many crops which have sprouted.
"It is not really that good at all," Australia & New Zealand Bank analyst Paul Deane said.
"Emergence is pretty patchy. Crops are certainly not off to a good start."
The problems are seen besetting in particular canola and malting barley varieties, which are earlier sown that wheat, and for which planting windows are ending.
"Wheat has still got plenty of time," Mr Deane told Agrimoney.com.
With Western Australia the country’s top canola-producing state – expected by industry experts to produce a 1.20m-tonne crop this year, 40% of the national harvest – the dryness represents the latest of a series of threats to world canola crops.
Prospects for rapeseed crops in the European Union, the world’s biggest producer, have been hurt by frost, with cold weather raising questions over output in second-ranked Canada too.
Meteorologists at groups such as World Weather have suggested that frosts in the northern US plains and the Canadian Prairies late last week may have hurt newly-emerged seedlings.
Meanwhile, dryness is seen as a threat to, mainly grain, crops in parts of Russia, Ukraine and the southern US Plains.
Back to 2010?
However, Western Australian farmers may have only limited opportunity even to reseed lost canola area with wheat, given that some herbicide-resistant varieties of the oilseed are planted into soil treated with weedkillers such as atrazine.
"Wheat crops would be susceptible to this," Aaron Edmonds, who farms at Calingiri in Western Australia’s central wheat belt, told Agrimoney.com.
"Some legumes would be OK, but it is getting late to be sowing legumes too."
The conditions were reminding growers of 2010, when dryness cut Western Australian canola output by 31% to 711,000 tonnes, according to official data.
"Two years ago is what is in the back of everyone’s minds, rather than the bumper result last year," Mr Edmonds said, reporting that some canola crops in the region were already lost.
"The 2010 season was more painful than the pleasure in last year’s crop."
Rain on its way?
Many growers were putting faith in rains due on Thursday to boost their fortunes although, at 1mm-5mm, it was not expected to be "particularly generous".
"We are hoping they will end up higher than that, although even a small amount is better than just having temperatures of 25 degrees [Celsius]," Mr Edmonds said.
The comments came as farmers in eastern areas were celebrating rain which had boosted their crops, after spell up until now in May during which New South Wales and Queensland had received less than 20% of average rainfall.
Over the weekend, "the best rain, 25mm-50mm, fell from central northern New South Wales into Queensland, yet most regions received more than 10mm", Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon May 28, 2012 9:55 am
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