Midwest Rains: Too Much Of A Good Thing, Or Not?

23/06/15 -- Most of this report came in yesterday from my US weather chum, Gail Martell at Martell Crop Projections, with a few inserts from your truly. You can click the image to enlarge it.

Excessive rainfall has developed in the eastern Midwest causing widespread flooding. Soybeans especially are in jeopardy, because plants are smaller, due to later planting dates than corn. As of May 31st, only half of soybeans had sprouted and emerged whereas corn development was rather advanced with early planting and stronger growth.

Soybean prospects are worse than corn 67% good-excellent, 27% fair and 6% poor-very poor in the June 14th report. Corn was 73% good-excellent, 22% fair and 5% poor-very poor in last week’s report. Updated conditions will be released this afternoon from USDA, expected to show worsening conditions in both crops from continuing heavy rainfall. (They did, soybeans now 65% good to excellent and corn is down to 71% in the top two categories, although that's far from a disaster just yet).

Illinois soybeans on June 14th were rather favourable with 70% good-excellent. The new report is expected to show worsening conditions in the second leading soybean state. Iowa soybeans were 80% good-excellent with relatively drier conditions. (Illinois beans are down 10 percentage points G/E to 60%, and Iowa is still on 80% as of last night).

Rainfall has been excessively heavy in the Midwest, east of the Mississippi Valley in particular. Tropical storm Bill is responsible for the extreme wetness, making landfall in Texas last week, spreading a swath of heavy rainfall up through Oklahoma then eastward through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Corn and soybeans west of the Mississippi Valley were “less wet”, though above average rainfall developed most everywhere in the farm belt. A rash of strong thunderstorms was under way this morning in the Upper Midwest keeping the rainy weather pattern going.

Virtually the entire Midwest soybean growing area is expecting more rain. The heaviest amounts are predicted for northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, northern Illinois and central Ohio. Localised flooding is expected from excessive rainfall in the upcoming week, 4-6 times normal in selected areas.

Midwest temperatures are expected be merely average this week, cooler than last week, due to frequent cloudiness and showers.

Extreme Wetness Linked to El Nino

The El Nino climate anomaly is to blame for extreme wetness. The El Nino signal is particularly strong this season, in fact, among the most intense on record. The Climate Prediction Centre claims El Nino chances would remain above 90% in the next several weeks.

The USDA forecast for 2015 soybean production is 3.850 billion bushels, down 119 million bushels from the record 3.969 billion bushels produced in 2013. This forecast seems reasonable, but only if Midwest field conditions improve with drier weather. Perhaps smaller plants have been washed out in the low-lying areas. The prime time for soybean yields is the pod filling stage in August.