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Unfavorable weather likely to lower US corn production, delay harvest

New Delhi — The weather troubles for corn growers in the US are likely to resume with forecast of wetter and colder days in upper parts of the Midwest, which could further disrupt harvesting and impact quality of the late planted crop.

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Wet weather conditions have already delayed harvest in the Midwest, the biggest US corn producing region, besides weighing on the quality of standing crop, weather experts said.

Another major concern for late planted corn crop in the US is frost, which can cause significant damage to the immature crops, they said.

In the upper parts of Midwest -- northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and North Dakota -- there is a forecast for frost in the next 7-8 days that would likely hurt some of the corn, said Greg Horstmeier, editor-in-chief at US-based analysis firm DTN.

However, frost is not a huge concern for the rest of the Midwest, he said.

Donald Keeney, a weather expert at Maxar also expects much colder weather later this week, with frost expected across all of the Dakotas, Nebraska, northwestern Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin by Friday and Saturday.

"There will likely be some damage there to corn that hasn't reached maturity yet," Keeney said.

PRODUCTION AND YIELD

Too much rain in the north and dry conditions in the Mississippi Delta and Southeast, coupled by a late planting season, have created widely variable yields and quality problems, said Terry Reilly, senior commodity analyst with Futures International.

The US corn production is expected to be 13.79 billion bushels (350.5 million mt) for September 2019-August 2020, with yields at 168.2 bushels/acre, the US Department of Agriculture estimated in its September World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.

INTL FCStone's Chief Commodities Economist Arlan Suderman said that a worst-case scenario could see more than 750 million bushels of corn directly lost, along with significant quality problems, depending on the eventual path, intensity and duration of the cold air.

For the upcoming WASDE report, the average analyst estimate for US corn production is at 13.59 billion bushels, with estimated yield at 166.7 bu/acre.

Reilly from Futures International said they expect US corn yield to be at 168.0 bu/acre, and S&P Global Platts Analytics has estimated corn yield in the US to be at 167.2 bu/acre.

"The general thought by the trade is to see lower yield going forward by USDA," Reilly said.

DELAY IN HARVEST

"We seem to be in for a fairly long, slow harvest," said Horstmeier from DTN.

Too much rain fell across the upper Midwest over the last week preventing producers from harvesting their crops, the analysts said.

According to Crop Progress data released by the USDA on Monday, corn harvest in the US has reached 15% as of Sunday, against the five-year average of 27%.

Some corn growers are also harvesting early as wet weather increases the risk of poor stalk condition, which leads to plants lodging and being hard to harvest, said analysts.

Growers are harvesting early even though grain is still high in moisture and are drying the grain before storage. Very little corn is being harvested at 15% or below moisture, which is ideal, Horstmeier said.

"If damp weather continues I think we'll see corn harvest go into November certainly, possible into early December," he added.

In the Midwest, corn harvest normally starts by late August-September.

Analysts are also expecting these inclement weather conditions, and potential floods to move into spring next year.

Most of the northern Missouri River valley is wetter and lakes, creeks and rivers are fuller. There are no big periods of dry, warm weather and with generally continued wet weather ahead, we will likely go into winter with soils in saturated condition, Horstmeier said.

"Those soils will freeze wet, the lakes will stay full, and be that way through winter. That sets up conditions for more flooding if we get the snow pack we normally see. Still a long way to go before that happens, but the conditions are not good," he added.

-- Shikha Singh, shikha.singh1@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Kshitiz Goliya, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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