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UPDATE for July 27th, 2023

Russia Escalates Attacks and Heat Now but Possible Cooler Outlook

Russian attacks on Ukrainian grain infrastructure began again 10 days ago and have escalated this week. Reports Monday morning indicated that Russia is clearly targeting all of Ukraine’s exporting locations as grain warehouses along the Danube River, one of key alternate shipping routes, were destroyed in overnight air attacks. The port city of Odesa continues to be heavily targeted and was under missile attack again last night. Reuters is reporting that a cargo terminal was damaged overnight which killed a security guard at the location. One Ukrainian official estimates that at least 26 port infrastructure facilities have been damaged by Russian airstrikes.

Ever since Russia declined to extend the Black Sea grain deal there has been a lot of news and rumors swirling around about what this may mean for the future of exports for both nations. Great Britian is now saying that they have received reliable information that indicates the Russian military may also be planning to target civilian shipping in the Black Sea region. This comes after the EU has promised to help Ukraine export its farm produce through neighboring EU countries with the use of rail and road “solidarity lanes” as well as fund the companies used to transport the grain. These routes have angered farmers in the neighboring countries as the abundance of Ukrainian grain has lowered prices they receive. On Tuesday Britian’s U.N. Ambassador said, “Our information indicates that the Russian military may expand their targeting of Ukrainian grain facilities further, to include attacks against civilian shipping in the Black Sea.” They also have information that, “Russia has laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports. We agree with the U.S. assessment that this is a coordinated effort to justify and lay blame on Ukraine for any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea.” This information backs up warnings from the U.S. regarding civilian ships and sea mines. Evidently the U.S. is planning to provide funding for the construction of new grain silos and offer financial assistance to Ukrainian farmers. (Reuters)

Aside from the war the other major factor driving prices this season has been the weather. According to leading ag meteorologists the worst may still lie ahead for some areas of the Midwest. With heat topping 100 degrees coupled with little to no rain in the forecast, crop conditions could deteriorate quickly especially in the western Corn Belt. USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey says the long-lasting high heat that has been baking the south and southwest has made its way into the Midwest.

This growing season has been anything but ideal but crop ratings have shown improvement during July compared to June. Rippey said, “It’s been a year full of challenges, no doubt about it. To this point, our biggest issues have been with the dryness that peaked in late June and since then, we’ve seen considerable relief in some areas. But now for the first time, we’re combining that with the highest temperatures of the season to date.”

The following NOAA map shows where the most extreme heat is located compared to normal. Areas in yellow across the Midwest can expect temps 7 to 10 degrees above-normal.

Rippey warns, “We could see widespread temperatures 100 degrees or higher throughout the western Corn Belt, extending eastward into the Mississippi Valley, and so the areas like Missouri that really haven't seen much recovery, if any, putting this extreme heat on top of the dry conditions is coming during a terrible time. We have corn and soybeans that are in the reproductive to filling stage, which it's absolutely critical to keep temperatures and keep the moisture coming in during this time. We have neither in the driest areas right now.” He went on to say, “You've got to really focus on that southwestern Corn Belt area as the biggest concern, because if you look at Missouri, and parts of neighboring states, we've got much deeper problems than this week's heat; we have the moisture deficiency, and we have the drought issues that go back all the way into early spring. And so, where we have those subsoil and topsoil moisture shortages in the southwestern Corn Belt, overlaying that with 100 degrees heat this week, that is going to be another blow for corn and soybeans in those areas."

Eric Snodgrass, principal atmospheric scientist with Nutrien Ag Solutions is concerned about the weather outlooks going into next week. “We're going to be talking about temperatures that are going to be in the mid- to upper-90s as far north as Minnesota and the Dakotas, and then possibly, there’s going to be some pockets in Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, that are going to be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. “And so, we always worry it's going to last. Is this going to be a two-to-three-day event? Or is there going to be a 10-day event or a 30-day event?”

“But the question we have is, there's humidity in this pattern. So, will there be storms that blow up in the middle of this and bring some cooler weather? That's a possibility. So, I would call it hot, hot with a lot of isolated storm activity. There's going to be winners out of this, and there's going to be a larger area that's going to see some crop damage.” Rippey says that the forecast shows some opportunities for rainfall in the central Midwest as well as the South and Southwest but most will miss out on any meaningful totals. “Even though the Midwest will see sporadic showers, amounts will generally not be enough to keep up with high temperatures and peak crop-moisture demand. This could lead to increased stress on corn and soybeans, especially in hotter and more significantly drought-affected areas of the western Corn Belt.”

Looking at the 3-month outlook for August through October Snodgrass says the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting that the ridge that is causing the high heat to enter the Midwest will be moving out. The CPC is calling for the ridge to move back West in August which will keep the Midwest much cooler. They then expect El Niño will take over and the forecast to turn wet. Snodgrass does not fully agree with the CPC outlook as all the weather models are still not in agreement that far out. He said, “I feel like we’ve been punched in the mouth twice. And if there’s a third punch, maybe it’s you know, longer duration into early August, and I think we’re going to see some possible significant yield loss. But if storms cascade over the top of it, and the ridge goes back to Arizona, then we will be talking about busting bins with yield.”

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