Drought in 2020?
BY RAY GRABANSKI
Special to the Farm Forum
6/16/20 — The last few weeks have brought an increasing chance that 2020 crops will be adversely affected by drought. We are in an extremely dry pattern, with almost no rain in the Corn Belt the past week at a time of year when the highest rainfall amounts typically fall. Farmers are becoming increasingly concerned with drought losses, and already we are seeing crop conditions affected by it in sorghum and corn. But perhaps more concerning is the rapid depletion of what once was plentiful soil moisture levels. The past two weeks’ rapid decline might be the most aggressive loss of soil moisture in decades.
Weather forecasts have gotten less threatening today, with a bit more precip and cooler temps forecast for the next 14 days. However, there is still virtually no rain in the Corn Belt today, and very little forecast the next week. To forecast a return to normal temps and precip in the 8-14 day forecast looks like a leap of faith by weather guessers. But they have been right once in a while, too.
Weekly crop progress is showing a crop increasingly susceptible to significant yield losses from drought in 2020. The first crop to show that stress has been sorghum, with a huge 7% drop this week in ratings to 48% G/E. Corn also dropped a huge 4% to 71% G/E, which caused the yield model to have its first significant yield loss of 2.17 bu/acre (or about 180 mb). These kind of losses are similar to 2012, with the final yield 25% below trend. Many are comfortable that corn carryout is 3 billion bu projected, but a 25% yield loss would drop that to -750 mb! So to say corn prices can’t go up due to high carryout numbers currently projected is very short-sighted. With funds heavily short, if they are forced to cover the market can move quickly.
Soybean conditions were unchanged at 72% rated G/E, but soybeans are only 2” tall in many cases, so it’s hard to hurt a soybean at that period of development. But when they pod, if there isn’t moisture, there isn’t grain, either. More concerning to the Corn Belt is the rapidly depleting soil moisture levels, which showed large declines last week but even larger this week. Topsoil moisture dropped a nearly unprecedented 9% from adequate/surplus to 69%, while subsoil dropped 6% to 76% adequate/surplus. These huge drops mean the insurance policy against drought of stored soil moisture is quickly depleting. If by July we continue to drop like this, continued drought would devastate corn and soybean yields. Soybean yields could be more affected than corn, but both still have significant moisture needs. Hot/dry, windy weather is not at all what we want. So if the current pattern of nearly no rain and hot/windy days continue, we could have a weather market in 2020. Stay tuned, the fun is just beginning!
We note that the media and stock market are reacting to news of increased COVID-19 cases in some areas. But updates by health professionals indicate only 11 counties out of 3100 counties nationwide are seeing an acceleration of COVID-19 cases — nearly all in large, progressive cities. Clearly, no one has plans to implement a nationwide shutdown again, but these areas do need to do something better to contain the virus. Maybe mass, shoulder-to-shoulder protests aren’t such a good idea?
Ray Grabanski can be reached at email@example.com .