Near-record amounts of snow dumped across the United States over the winter could delay seeding of the corn and soybean crops in the Midwest grain belt when the melt begins this spring.
Any planting delay could set the tone for volatile trading at the Chicago Board of Trade, which got a foretaste on Monday when corn futures posted their biggest one-day gain in nearly three months amid more wet weather in the corn belt.
“A delay in planting is almost imminent in my opinion. The current weather scenario isn’t causing the delay, it’s what has already happened,” said Mike McClellan, meteorologist at Mobile Weather Team in Washington, Illinois.
A rainy and cool autumn caused the 2009 harvest season to stretch well into December for some farmers, leaving them with little time to prepare fields for spring planting.
The large amount of snow now on the ground combined with the predominant long-term forecast for a rainy, cool spring is fuelling concerns over flooding, which would delay planting.
As spring begins, how quickly flooding might occur will depend on temperatures as well as rainfall, which facilitates snowmelt. But even a warm, dry spring, with a more gradual snowmelt, could result in flooding, meteorologists said.
According to the National Weather Service, some areas in top corn-producing states saw above-average snowfall during December. Des Moines, in Iowa, the largest corn-producing state, saw a record-breaking 28.2 inches of snow in December, 1.3 inches more than the previous record set in December 2000.
Peoria, Illinois, saw its sixth-wettest December on record with a total of 37.7 inches. Grand Island, Nebraska, saw its snowiest December since 1973 with 26.5 inches of snow.
“Odds are pretty good we’re going to end up with some kind of flooding this (spring) season. It all comes down to how quickly the snow melts,” said Drew Lerner, senior agricultural meteorologist at World Weather Inc. in Overland Park, Kansas.
With spring planting season not getting underway until late March and early April, some analysts played down the possible impact of seeding delays on crop prices.
“The odds of planting delays are probably higher than average, but there is just so much variety in spring weather it’s hard to get too panicked yet,” said Tim Emslie, research director at Country Hedging in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Even if planting season is late it may not reduce yield, an analyst said.
“I’m not worried about it. We were delayed last year and we had record yields,” said Roy Huckabay, director of market research at The Linn Group in Chicago.