Dry weather puts late U.S. soy plantings in jeopardy
Kelly Robertson jammed a screwdriver into the hard, dry ground on his farm in southern Illinois, carved out six inches (15 cm) of soil and could not find any moisture.
Because of the dry conditions, Robertson, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat near Benton, Illinois, did not begin planting soybeans until last week, fearing the seeds would not have enough moisture to germinate.
"We sit here and wait for a rain. More correctly, we sit and wait on multiple rain events because one rain ... is not going to be enough," Robertson said in a recent interview.
Dry weather is impeding late soybean planting, a factor that may limit any increase from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's March soybean planting intentions figure of 73.9 million acres.
USDA's March soy figure came in below trade expectations and, if realized, would represent the fewest acres planted to soybeans in five years. The government is scheduled to release updated acreage figures on June 29.
Some private analysts, such as Informa Economics, have predicted that USDA will raise its soybean plantings figure by more than 2 million acres next week to account for historically high soybean prices that may have encouraged farmers to plant more than they intended in March.
In particular, analysts expect a jump in so-called "double-crop" soybeans, which are planted as a second crop on winter wheat fields shortly after the wheat is harvested.
But others are more pessimistic about a soy acreage increase, citing farmers like Robertson who have struggled for weeks with parched conditions.
"I think we've probably lost 40 to 45 percent of the potential increase already, with more coming if we don't we don't get rains by the end of the month," said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics in Lafayette, Indiana.
"Clients in Kansas and Indiana -- any areas that are dry right now (who) would be double-cropping after wheat harvest -- are holding back," said Zuzolo.
"This weather is starting to impact the beans with almost a multiplier effect because of the acreage and the yields both being hit," Zuzolo added.
Every bushel will be crucial for global soy supplies because drought has slashed soy crops in Brazil and Argentina, the No. 2 and 3 global producers, leaving farmers in the United States, the world's top soybean grower, to fill the breach.
Most of the U.S. crop is already in the ground. The USDA stopped reporting soybean planting progress after June 10, when it said 97 percent of the crop had been seeded. But planting of the last soybean fields can continue until mid-July.