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Mother Nature Holding Summer Cards Close to Vest

One theory says late summer could hamper soybeans.

Old-timers say a dry June is good for the corn crop- since it helps it root more deeply. But long-time weather expert Jim Newman, West Lafayette, now retired, says a dry May isn't necessarily a plus. That's because germination and root establishment are keys to getting the crop off to a good start, and they happen in May normally.

Dry weather in the Eastern Corn Belt, particularly Indiana, became an issue in the past 10 days heading into last weekend. Farmers were planting soybeans into dry dirt from Lafayette to Edinburgh and many, but not all, points in between. Around Delphi and Wabash, soils just became dry enough last week for farmers to resume planting, finishing corn and getting onto soybeans.

Weather experts often say that weather cycles run in about six-week increments. If that's so, the dry period could continue into early June. However, weather forecast maps posted by the National Weather Service don't necessarily bear out that trend. In fact, 90 -day forecast maps show vast areas of EC, meaning equal chances, of either too warm or too dry, too cool or too wet. Translated, the weather forecasters don't see a strong enough trend or enough indicators to call the weather trend either way.

It's a year when even the slightest bobble in weather patterns could produce a scare and market rally. Whether the rally is short and ephemeral or longer-term and real depends upon whether the weather pattern triggering the market action turns out to be just that- a scare-or if it becomes real. If it's only a scare and the anticipated weather problem fails to develop or falls quietly away, then prices usually soon find their previous level. But once damage becomes real, prices may hold. At some point, market increases based upon the scare may be bid into the price, so that once the scare does become reality, much of the increase that the actual damage would cause may already be counted in the current price. Further runups of the price of the commodity in such a situation in a normal year might be minimal. However, with large corn acreage, fewer soybean acres in comparison to corn and reasonably tight stocks of both commodities, this season is anything but typical.

Now retired Newman has devoted his interests into other activities and no longer follows weather patterns on a weekly basis as he did for many years. However, the long-time ag climatologist says the key factor to watch may be the development of the La Nina, or cooling phase of the El Nino/La Nina cycle. While many people misunderstand and misjudge its impact, partly because many people fail to factor in delays from when the ocean waters off the tropical Pacific warm of cool to expected weather patterns aloft over land, particularly over the Midwestern U.S., it's possible that if a La Nina takes shape, it could influence weather patterns across the U.S. by late summer, Newman believes. Currently, the system is in a neutral pattern, although waters are cooling.

A late-season La Nina, if it develops and is large enough to have an impact in this part of the U.S., might bring drier than normal conditions. That could impact the soybean crop. Much will depend upon timing and weather patterns between now and then. All Newman points out is that if you're looking for a possible weather impact to watch this summer, your best bet may be a large season dry out linked to La Nina. The question will be if it's strong enough to impact soybean yields.

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