OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S. soybean crop, expected to be a bin-buster in 2014, has a full month to go through before its spotlight month. The market aphorism is that July is the key month for corn due to pollination, whereas the majority of soybean pod-setting and pod-filling is accomplished during August.
That doesn't mean traders ignore the weather influences on soybean plants. July sets the foundation for good soybean yields in the form of plant health and robust growth for blooming. In the early stages of plant condition assessment, the evaluation is very positive. Soybean crop plant ratings the week of June 22 were tabbed at 72% good to excellent, a record high for the date.
"With these stellar crop ratings, the trade is now feeling more confident that the USDA's record 2014 soybean yield projection of 45.2 bushels per acre can be attained or even exceeded," said DTN Contributing Analyst Joel Karlin.
A big reason for that is a weather pattern that featured mild weather and consistent rainfall during June. While July may bring a seasonal decline in rainfall, temperatures are not forecast to take a sudden move to extreme heat.
"The lack of hot temperatures in the forecast and improved soil moisture across the U.S. adds bearish influence to soybean prices," said DTN Market Analyst Todd Hultman.
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For DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino, the atmospheric configuration over the primary U.S. crop areas continues to generate favorable temperatures and periods of rain.
"Significant high latitude blocking high pressure is expected to continue in the vicinity of Alaska and northwest Canada, and in the vicinity of Greenland. This will maintain a mild and cool pattern for much of Canada," Palmerino said. "Subtropical high pressure will be located over the southern U.S. Disturbances in the jet stream moving along the boundary zone between the cooler air to the north and warmer air to the south will be the focus of frequent episodes of scattered showers and thunderstorms over most of the Plains and Midwest."
One feature that all of agriculture will keep close tabs on is the development -- or lack thereof -- of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean. The water temperature component of El Nino reached half a degree Celsius above normal in mid-June over the eastern sector of the Pacific. However, the barometric pressure component of El Nino known as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) had not moved into El Nino categories at the end of June. Government weather agencies in the U.S. and Australia forecast El Nino to be in place by August, which portends well for soybeans because of a strong relationship between El Nino in the Pacific and benign crop weather, or at least no threatening heat in the Midwest.
South Dakota State Climatologist Dennis Todey thinks El Nino may have already begun to display its influence. Still, he is hedging when it comes to predicting how long this feature will last.
"We could have the sea surface temperatures cool quickly and not have much El Nino influence at all," Todey said. "I think such a development (rapid cooling) is highly unlikely, but we'll need to wait to see if there is a stronger signal over a period of time."
The fact that soybeans will still have their critical month of August yet to come keeps Karlin from placing a rubber stamp of approval on the prospects for yield, even with a beneficial-looking pattern in July.
"Having great early-season conditions have little correlation with final yields, especially with the critical flowering and pod setting phase not occurring until August," Karlin said. "Traders realize there is a long time until this year's soybean crop is safely in the bin."
Bryce Anderson can be reached at email@example.com
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