OMAHA (DTN) -- The past two years have seen far different temperature trends for the Corn Belt. In 2012, record heat and drought withered crops. In 2013, a very cool pattern was dominant. So far, indications are that July 2014 will be closer to last year, and corn yield prospects in record-level categories are being discussed as a result.
"The (corn) crop condition rating June 22 rates as one of the best ever for this time of year," said DTN Contributing Analyst Joel Karlin. "This helps cement trade ideas that the USDA's 165.3 bushel-per-acre yield projection is on track and may be exceeded."
The June 29 corn crop good-to-excellent total was a lofty 75%. Karlin pointed to five other years -- 1986, 1987, 1991, 1994 and 1999 -- in the 1986-2013 period when the June ratings exceeded 2014. Of those five years, only 1991 had final corn yields below trendline. Three of those years -- 1986, 1987 and 1994 -- "were years of record-high yields," Karlin said in a recent DTN "Fundamentally Speaking" blog.
Conditions are not ideal everywhere, however. South Dakota state climatologist Dennis Todey is concerned about heavy, record-breaking rain during June causing problems for the northern sector of the Corn Belt: the Dakotas, Minnesota, northern Iowa and Wisconsin. In this region, record-breaking rains have soaked many fields. Sioux Falls, S.D., for example, set an all-time monthly record precipitation total (for any month) during the first three weeks of June, with almost 13 1/2 inches, which is almost 4 inches more than the previous record 9 4/10 inches in May 1898. He looks for additional chances for wet conditions during July.
"The problem is not necessarily, will it be wet, but what happens between now and fall," Todey said. "If we have enough heat, a wet fall won't be a big problem. But if there's not enough heat, especially in the northern Corn Belt, there could be some problems with wet harvest."
Outside of the saturated north, mild weather and periods of rain appear set to be very favorable for corn pollination.
"July looks like a good month for the Corn Belt overall," Todey said. "There are no big major issues. We'll have to wait to see what happens with the wet areas. Overall, we're in pretty good shape right now."
EL NINO PATTERN INFLUENCE
One big reason for a generally-favorable July forecast is what appears to be a developing El Nino pattern in the Pacific Ocean. El Nino, featuring above-normal sea surface temperatures in the equator region and sustained west-to-east low-latitude jet stream trends, is seen as a non-threatening feature during U.S. summer seasons. El Nino has not yet been officially identified, but DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino says evidence is building that El Nino's influence is part of this season's weather scenario.
"We've seen enough indications, with an active tropical season in the eastern Pacific; the inability to really get the India monsoon on track; rainfall patterns increasing due to a very warm tropical Pacific north of the equator; sea surface temperatures a solid one-and-a-half degree Celsius above normal ... overall I think we're here," Palmerino said.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center does not officially recognize El Nino yet, Todey said, but "it's either starting or very close to starting. Now the discussion is where is the core of the warm water setting up, how strong will this El Nino be; when is it going to peak?"
For the corn market, the issue of El Nino may be one of semantics. The cliche "rain makes grain" is fully in play for the month of July, despite the wet-ground issues in the northern sector. With that idea, DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom sees a bearish market weather factor going into the pollination month of July.
"Traders who trade USDA (and there are a lot of them who do) remember last year when the government refused to cut planted/harvested acres to the much-discussed levels everyone thought following spring flooding," Newsom said. "They may not buy into it this year unless it gets worse."
Bryce Anderson can be reached at Bryce.firstname.lastname@example.org
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