May 6, 2020 / 5:59 PM / 23 days ago

Late-week frost in U.S. Midwest threatens winter wheat, emerging corn

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Frosty temperatures expected in the U.S. Midwest on Saturday could threaten newly planted corn crops and developing soft red winter wheat, meteorologists said on Wednesday.

The United States is the world’s biggest corn exporter and the No. 3 wheat supplier.

Benchmark July corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade were down 3 cents at $3.14 a bushel late in Wednesday’s session, hovering above a contract low set last month as expectations for a large U.S. crop and uncertain grain demand amid the coronavirus pandemic hung over the market.

Temperatures early on Saturday are expected to drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 C) as far south as Kentucky, with lows in the upper 20s F (-4 to -2 C) in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, said Drew Lerner, agricultural meteorologist with World Weather Inc.

“We are going to have some damage done across the Midwest. (But) it’s going to vary a lot,” Lerner said.

The most mature crops will be most vulnerable, including soft red winter wheat, used for cookies and snack foods, in Missouri, southern Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Some 15% of the U.S. soft red winter wheat crop could be hurt by the frost, the Commodity Weather Group said in a note to clients.

“A degree or two difference from the forecast will make a big difference in the bottom line. Right now, we are going to be at the threshold. If it gets a little colder than expected, it’s a bigger deal,” Lerner said.

The Commodity Weather Group said about 4% to 9% of the emerging U.S. corn crop would be at risk.

Some young corn plants can recover from frost, Lerner said, but more advanced crops may need to be replanted.

Farmers had seeded 51% of the U.S. corn crop as of Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Only about 8% had emerged from the ground nationally, but crops were farther advanced in the southern Midwest, with 14% of the corn in Missouri and 28% in Kentucky already emerged.

Soybeans were seen as less vulnerable, meteorologists said, with only 23% of the crop seeded by Sunday and a smaller portion emerged.

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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