U.S. corn pollination weather ideal, soybeans eyed

CHICAGO Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:41am EDT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Weather conditions across the U.S. corn belt are expected to be ideal during the critical pollination period this month, but there is some uncertainty in August for the vital pod setting in soybeans, forecasters said.

"I don't think it could be much better," Mike Palmerino, a forecaster for DTN Meteorologix, said in an interview. "(I see) little or no problems in (corn) pollination."

For a graphic of weather conditions in the U.S. Midwest grain belt, click on: (here)

The pollination stage in corn is the most vital period in its development and potential yield. Pollen falls from the tassels at the top of the stalks to the silks below and helps determine the number and size of kernels on each ear of corn.

Poor weather such as a heat wave, floods or pests could inflict significant damage on corn output if they hit during pollination.

"Basically, it (corn pollination weather) is pretty good," said Harry Hillaker, the state climatologist for the Department of Agriculture in Des Moines, Iowa. The state is the biggest corn grower in the United States.

The United States is the world's largest producer and exporter of corn and soybeans, and any production problem could possibly lead to higher feed prices across the globe.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) late on Monday said 16 percent of the U.S. corn crop was silking or pollinating, behind the five-year average of 32 percent. And 24 percent of the soybean crop was blooming, behind the 43 percent five-year average.

Near-ideal growing weather has pummeled prices of corn and soybeans in Chicago as grain market players brace for a bumper harvest of both commodities.

Since early June, corn prices have plunged nearly $1 per bushel, or roughly 20 percent, and soybean prices dove almost $2 per bushel, or 15 percent.

Excessive rainfall this season has recharged soil moisture reserves, boosting production prospects and now, moderate temperatures and occasional showers continue to nurse each crop on to a potential bountiful harvest.

USDA's monthly supply/demand report said American farmers will harvest their largest soybean crop and the second largest corn crop ever.

The government pegged the corn crop at 12.29 billion bushels and soybeans at a record 3.26 billion bushels.

Palmerino said projected temperatures during the next two weeks when pollination takes place are normal to below normal, mitigating the threat of heat to the plant.

Rainfall is also seen staying normal to below normal, "which is ideal" for the period, he said.

Hillaker said rains in Iowa are expected to be normal but not as excessive as in other parts of the corn belt.

Allen Motew, a forecaster for QT weather, said in a report "the (U.S.) corn belt will get timely rains over the next two weeks."

"The least 'favored' regions will be far northern regions from Minnesota to northern Ohio, but even this area will see some action too," he said.

SOYBEAN POD-SETTING WEATHER SEEN PROMISING

The forecasters said the pod setting weather for U.S. soybeans in August looks ideal at this time, but there is more of a wild card in predicting the weather that far out.

"At this time, I can see no major shift in the (weather) pattern," said Palmerino, adding he is "cautiously optimistic" about ideal weather in August for soybean pod setting.

Hillaker said soybeans were planted in a timely manner and there appear to be "no signs of any trouble" with pod setting to start in a few weeks' time.

The setting of pods by the soybean plants is vital in determining potential yield. Adverse weather could hinder plants from filling out its soy pods.

Palmerino said the only problem he sees for soybeans sown in the southern United States would be whether storms would sweep in from the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

"The further south you go, there is more uncertainty" about weather conditions, he explained.

Hillaker, on the other hand, said the timely sowing of beans should help shield the crop from a possible early frost.

"It would have to be a really early freeze to cause any trouble," he said.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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