Interest in the first frost date was higher than usual at the Decatur, Illinois version of Farm Progress Show this year. The show alternates in its production between permanent sites in Decatur in odd-number years and in Boone, Iowa in even-number years. I've been part of the DTN team at the show for close to 10 years. In that time, I can't recall that the frost topic was as acute when the show is in Decatur as when the show is in Boone.
This year, of course, was different. First of all, the Eastern Corn Belt was subjected to large-scale delays and replant issues last spring because of heavy rain and flooding. Then, the late-summer cool weather pattern caused a shortfall in Growing Degree Day accumulation. So, even in Illinois, producers are looking at harvest beginning about two weeks later than usual. And, even though the average first frost in that part of the Midwest is into October, there's just enough of a lag in crop development that producers are cautious about how the end of the season will play out.
My comments on frost were the following: No frost during the first full week of September; the overall Midwest temperature trend will remain on the cool side; and first frost occurrences likely will be on an average date this year (earlier than a year ago). Crop maturity is lagging enough that even an average first frost will quite possibly take some of the top off the crop size, especially corn, but not threaten enough production to warrant a spike higher in the market. The biggest impact to producers, though, is likely on the expense side for drying. The need to dry grain artificially is also quite possibly going to cause harvest to take longer to accomplish this year.
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Dry conditions also received some good interest. Central Illinois had a dry swath form during mid to late summer. We all know about the very dry situation that developed in the western Midwest, in addition to the drought in the Northern Plains and Canadian Prairies (and now forming in the Pacific Northwest as well). Looking ahead to the fall and winter seasons, the forecast doesn't offer much in the way of dryness easing for these areas. It's possible that we go into 2018 with more soil moisture concerns starting out the season than we did in 2017. That's a topic that will get more attention when we go further into fall.
Another dry area to keep track of is central Brazil. That big crop region is currently in its typical dry season. But, if rainfall holds off in the mid-September to mid-October time frame, that could delay soybean planting. At the end of soybean season, this could cause a later start to second-crop (safrinha) corn planting than is ideal for the crop before the onset of the dry season in May 2018. I do not think that we can take it for granted that Brazil will have the kind of on-time, consistent rain that it enjoyed and benefited from in 2016-17, when corn production soared more than 30% above the drought-hit year of 2015-16.
Finally, the dynamics that led to supporting the 50-plus inch rains in southeastern Texas from Hurricane Harvey are noteworthy, because of their stagnant features. Persistent, stationary high pressure in the western U.S. through the Canadian Prairies, along with a standing upper-atmosphere low pressure trough over the Midwest, led to almost a non-existent jet stream flow, and gave Hurricane Harvey no impetus to go anywhere once that storm formed in the last full week of August. The pattern that kept the Midwest cool also helped to forced Harvey to just spin around the southeastern Texas coastal area, with the result being the catastrophic rainfall that has caused so much damage along with fatalities. It was a real headline way to end the meteorological summer season.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by our DTN building during the show.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at email@example.com
Follow Bryce Anderson on Twitter @BAndersonDTN
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