Dry, hot weather across Argentina's grain belt during the last 10 days has caused concerns among corn and soybean farmers.
Soil moisture levels have fallen in key producing regions, including western Buenos Aires, La Pampa and the south of Cordoba province, to a level where grain crops urgently need more precipitation, according to the Argentina Meteorological Service (SMN).
The biggest issue is with the corn crop, the early planted portion of which is now entering key development phases.
The high temperatures are making the lack of rain a real problem, according to Juan Pablo Ioele, an agronomist at the Argentina Agriculture Technology Institute (INTA) in southeastern Cordoba province.
The good news is that rains are forecast for the next couple of weeks in the grain-producing nucleus of northern Buenos Aires, southern Cordoba and southern Santa Fe. Rainfall of 1.5 to 4 inches will fall, according to Rosario Cereals Exchange forecasts.
Light rain is expected today, which will become heavier next week.
The moisture will be welcome as, since the start of November, rainfall has been just a third of average levels in the nucleus.
The rain had better come as the outlook for January is for drier weather.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts Argentina will produce 54.5 million metric tons (mmt) of soybeans and 26 mmt of corn.
The dryness concerns in Argentina have been virtually the only issue with the South American soybean and corn crops so far this season.
The Brazilian soybean crop is looking generally excellent with high yields more or less guaranteed in the key-producing regions of Mato Grosso and western Parana.
The Helicoverpa Armigera caterpillar has not had the impact on Brazilian soybeans that many feared, while rain has returned to Mato Grosso do Sul and northern Parana over the last 10 days, assuaging dryness concerns there.
The main outstanding question in Brazil is whether sufficient rain will fall on crops in southern Parana and Rio Grande do Sul during January and February.
Alastair Stewart can be reached at Alastair.email@example.com
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