The 2017-18 growing season in South America has not been perfect, but up to now, crop development has been satisfactory. That may change, however, with needed rain in the central Argentina crop belt looking less promising than earlier-season incidents.
“Weather forecast models have been consistent all week in indicating that the only chance of any showers and thunderstorms during the next week to 10 days will be on Jan. 20, with amounts only in the range of 0.25 to 0.75 inch, with locally heavier,” said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino in his Jan. 24 blog posting. “This will not be enough to end crop stress, with the potential for some crop losses as we enter the critical filling month of February.”
It has been almost 10 years — going back to the 2009-09 crop season — since Argentina experienced a harsh mid to late-season drought. But, soil moisture in the primary crop areas is widely variable, with just a few sectors showing adequate to surplus quantities. And, considering that February is the month when corn and soybeans are in their fill stages (the reverse of August in the Northern Hemisphere), the Argentina ag industry is fully aware of the potential drawdown in production that could develop if dryness persists.
“The weather forecast seems to be worse than they expected during January,” said Esteban Copati of Bolsa de Cereales, in response to a question on Twitter. “From now on, the lack of soil moisture will begin to affect critical stages of both crops.”
Even past the coming weekend, the Argentina forecast offers only light to locally moderate precipitation. The U.S. forecast model, through the time period ending Feb. 9, offers no more than 1 inch (25 millimeters) of total rainfall over the central Argentina crop belt. In addition, La Nina conditions may be strengthening in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean, adding further support to drier conditions in central Argentina. Eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures for the first half of the month were minus 1.2 degrees Celsius versus normal. The atmospheric measurement known as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) gives signs of moving into La Nina values, with readings of plus 12 to almost plus 26 over the 10-day time frame ending Jan. 24.
Even with the forecast looking less favorable, Argentina producer Eduardo Reynolds is not ready to concede to lower production yet. “Soybean is a tough plant,” Reynolds told DTN over Twitter. “For the moment, it does not look like a repeat of ’08-’09; we will see how February works out.”