For much of the northern and eastern Corn Belt, the spring 2014 weather pattern looks like a repeat of 2013, with wet and cool conditions hindering planting progress. This scenario is no surprise, after the way the 2013-14 winter season shaped up. The entire central U.S. had below-average temperatures for the December-January-February time frame used for weather records; all traditional Midwest states except Ohio and Kentucky recorded "top 10" coldest winters. And on the precipitation side, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio recorded above average amounts. March has been drier, but the cold remains; Midwest Climate Center analysis shows the region's mean temperatures in March were from five to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit below average.
The long-lasting staying power of this cold pattern is impressive, and it's a feature that DTN senior ag meteorologist Mike Palmerino believes has gone past the point of being a minor issue regarding corn planting delays.
"I think there's good reason to be concerned," Palmerino said. "It was incredibly persistent through the winter, in terms of just day after day of cold and very little break in the cold. We're probably going to get into April in a similar fashion."
A major driver of the Midwest delayed-planting prospect is the fact that colder-than-average temperatures dominated much of Canada during the past winter. That colder air from the north helped to both establish and reinforce the big chill in the Midwest; and its presence may also boost a wet-weather scenario during early April.
"You're likely going to start mixing up the air masses a little more; it's likely going to start to turn wetter as you get more of a clash of air masses right through the heart of the Midwest," said Palmerino. "So, you may lose a little of the cold impact, but then you may start to be impacted by more moisture."
These delays are starting to make their way into at least some producer decision-making. DTN contributing analyst Joel Karlin noted in a blog item that the cold winter and early spring makes the Illinois corn planting rate for 2014 prospect average "at best". In reviewing the six years in recent history when the amount of corn planted in Illinois was less than ten percent by April 30, "final planted area was lower in all but one of the six years from what Illinois farmers intended to plant ranging from unchanged to down 700,000 acres with an average decline of 283,000 acres," Karlin noted.
And, farther north, DTN cash grains analyst Mary Kennedy said corn acreage reduction due to weather is probably well underway. "I heard this from an elevator near Casselton, ND: 'I would say north of Highway #2 there will be more. Lots of Prevented Planting last year and still corn in the fields.'" (The area described is northeastern North Dakota.)
Markets are starting to pay attention to this circumstance, especially with the calendar now in April and no sign of widespread corn planting in the major production areas.
"Weather is the key factor now," said DTN senior analyst Darin Newsom. "If April doesn’t cooperate, pushing planting back further, we could see corn acres dip to near 90 million. That might result in a much tighter 2014-2015 ending stocks projections."
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