According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this year’s corn crop is the latest seeded in history and the soybean crop the second latest.
The late planting pace was due to the excessive rain in May and June. And because the crops were planted so late, an early end to the growing season due to an early frost or hard freeze is quite possible.
In early July, AgWeb.com posted an interesting article with a blaring headline that read as follows: “World Weather Inc. says early frost, freeze very likely.”
Here are some highlights from that piece: “A wild weather year brought excessive moisture to many areas of the U.S., resulting in planting occurring at an historically slow pace.”
The article goes on to state: “This whole cycle that created the wet bias is a repeating pattern that’s not going to go away; it’s going to stay with us. We’ll go through some brief periods of warmer weather, and then we’re going to cool down again and then we’ll go back into the warmth again, but most of the time, we’re going to be cooler bias.”
Further in the article, AgWeb states: “With cooler than normal conditions, what about an early frost or freeze? (Drew Lerner of Weather World) said that’s his biggest concern right now. ‘At best, we’re going to have a normal frost and freeze,’ said Lerner. ‘I do not see this growing season being extended, especially in the northern parts of the Midwest. The odds are really high that we’re going to end up with the northern areas finishing out early.’”
History shows that an early frost bringing an early end to the growing season can shave 30 to 40 bushels per acre off yields in affected areas.
Also from the AgWeb article above, this paragraph leaps off the page: “1965 and 1983 both had early frost freezes, and both closely tied to the solar minimum, which was what we’re coming up upon. Further research has reflected that anytime the solar minimum’s at play, and we have a slight cooler bias, we tend to verify with the early frost or freezes. So, the odds are fairly good that we’re going to go down that road.”
Will Mother Nature bring an early end to the growing season this year? Here are some old wives’ tales about omens predicting an early frost or a hard winter from livingthecountrylife.com: “From Ozark folklore, slice a persimmon seed in half. A spoon shape means lots of heavy, wet snow to scoop. A fork shape means light, powdery snow and mild winter. If you seen a shape like a knife, expect to be, ‘cut’ by cold and icy, windy weather.”
And the “more black you see on caterpillars, the more harsh the winter will be.”
Also from livingthecountrylife.com come the following weather omens: “If you notice hornets, bees, and wasps building their nests higher than usual, like in the tops of trees rather than closer to ground level, a harsh winter with lots of snowfall may be coming. Squirrels and rabbits that appear fatter than normal may be bulking up for a harsh winter.”
And from Commodity Insite is this major weather warning by yours truly: “If you put your tongue on a pump handle and cannot remove it because it is frozen in place, it means winter has arrived. I urge everyone not to try that even out of curiosity. Do not try it.”
On Aug. 29, 2009, 10 years ago, fears hit the grain complex that an early frost would take place in the upper Midwest. At the close of trading that day, corn futures were up nearly 9 cents a bushel, wheat rose 11 cents in Chicago. Soybean prices were up nearly 34 cents a bushel. Prices were higher on a scare and not an actual frost.
From Barron’s, Aug. 9, 2019: “The corn crop looks set to go from bad to worse, which should boost prices of the grain. The combination of a weather-related planting delays, lower-than-forecast crop yields, and the probability of fall frost could conspire to produce double-digit gains in futures prices. I think we could see a rally to new highs by the end of the year.”
Two of my favorite weather forecasting services are calling for an early frost in Canada within the next 10 to 14 days. If so, the northern states of the United States will not be far behind, at least based on history.
Grain prices are suffering from deflation. There are no shortages of anything, and demand is poor due to the trade war with China and slower economic growth coming from Europe.
Moving forward, however, the key to grain prices rests with Mother Nature. The wildcard for the grain markets has been and always will be Mother Nature.
Will she end the growing season early this year? We will know soon enough.