Tuesday, August 9, 2011

US drought intensifies

The southern US drought is slowly extending its tentacles north and east as hot dry weather continues unabated. Although there was some rain in North Kansas over the weekend, and showers forecast across Oklahoma and North Texas this week, most precipitation will not be great enough to counter stifling evaporation. This will only exacerbate an already dire situation, as conditions continue to worsen across south-central US, where the combination of a historic ten-month drought and relentless summer heatwave leave little hope for rain-fed crops. These conditions will also place significant stress on livestock and irrigated crops. Record temperatures continue to be broken, with Oklahoma City averaging 32°C in July. This was the hottest month on record, smashing previous records set during the infamous 'Dust Bowl droughts' that took place in the late 1930’s. These drought affected regions account for 11.5% of corn and 76% of sorghum and with Hard Red Winter (HRW) sowing ramping up next month, acreage could be vastly down on average.

Generally most crop conditions were lower this week on the back of last weeks heat and dry conditions. The portion of the US spring wheat crop rated good/excellent declined 4% last week to 66%. Apparently the seasonal ratings tend to decline as the crop moves toward maturity. With the warmer weather, both winter and spring wheat harvest is going side by side in the Northern Plains, with winter wheat (85%) and spring wheat (6%) complete. Pacific Northwest (which accounts for 15% of acreage) is only 20% complete. Corn states of Kansas, Missouri, Nth Carolina and Texas (12% of US acreage) are dragging up the rear, with an average of 50% of these states in a very poor – poor condition. Whilst the key three states of Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska (42% of total acreage), an average of 67% is rated good to excellent.

Although the extent of the Midwest heat wave has disappeared for now, the extreme heat would have taken its toll on corn. With night temperatures last week 3 -4°C F above normal and afternoon highs, 2-3°C above the average. An estimated 70% of corn was pollination during this heat; this is a period of intense plant activity and accelerated moisture requirements. Unsuccessful pollination results in blank spaces on ears, where kernels are supposed to be developing. Watch this space…!

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