Corn Disaster: Rain Coming, But Not Enough

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
July 22, 2012; 5:48 AM ET
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Corn stalks struggling from lack of rain and a heat wave lie flat on the ground Monday, July 16, 2012, in Farmingdale, Ill. Currently, 38 percent of the corn crop in the U.S. is considered to be poor to very poor. This July, 42 percent of the nation is in severe to extreme drought, compared to 43 percent in July of 1988, 45 percent in July of 1954 and 61 percent in July of 1934. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Additional corn crop failures are likely, due to too little rain and too much heat through the middle of August.

Spotty downpours will grace northern and eastern areas of the corn belt into August, but not enough rain will fall on a large part of the corn belt, leading to a disaster. For many areas getting the rain, it is too late for the corn.

AccuWeather.com agricultural meteorologists feel that a lack of rain will continue to take its toll on non-irrigated corn in much of Nebraska and Kansas, as well as huge sections of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, southeastern South Dakota, southwestern Michigan and southeastern Wisconsin.

In these areas, a few tenths of an inch of rain will fall here and there in the weeks ahead with some areas barely getting a drop.

According to Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews, "The region has suffered and will continue to suffer from a lack of frequent thunderstorms. Warm-season rainfall is the primary source of soil moisture for the region."

In this southwestern and central swath of the corn belt, the combination of too much heat and too little rain moving forward into the middle of August will prove to be too much for corn to take. Essentially, most of these areas are beyond hope for a significant crop this year.


This map shows primary corn for grain-growing areas and the condition of the crop as of July 17, 2012. Since most fields on the High Plains, West and the Mississippi Delta are irrigated they are not as directly impacted by the drought.

Within these states, there are areas that have been holding on due to sporadic rainfall in recent days or weeks. However, areas, such as in parts of Ohio, southern Minnesota, central Illinois and central Iowa, still need significant rain for any hopes of a decent harvest come autumn.

There are some prime corn areas that are in reasonable shape such as in portions of eastern North Dakota, northern and eastern Minnesota and central Wisconsin.

These areas, as well as irrigated tracts on the High Plains and Midwest, and in other less thought-of farmland in the East will have to carry the load of high expectations of corn production originally set by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The northern and eastern areas will have less intense heat, less long-lasting heat and at least occasional episodes of rainfall, which should be enough to sustain the corn crop in general.

Rainfall in some corn-growing areas of the East has been sufficient with much of Pennsylvania, New York State and New Jersey in reasonably good shape. However, in pockets of these states and in large areas of the Delmarva, fields are being stressed.

AccuWeather.com agricultural meteorologists anticipate that overall production of the 2012 corn crop will be lower than yields forecast by the USDA during mid-July and could be near 138 bushels per acre.

This forecast is based on expectations of too little rain and too much heat over the central Plains to part of the Midwest and barely enough rain in northern and eastern areas.

The lack of rain in the southwestern and central part of the corn belt, where a significant part of the crop remains, will continue to drive down yields, due to additional failures.

The end result will be higher prices for livestock feed such as beef cattle, hogs and chickens. The higher costs will be passed along.

Consumers, who are already struggling to afford their grocery bill, or the more fortunate, who are spending away on vacations, may find themselves in quite a pinch late this summer and fall due to climbing food prices.

AccuWeather.com Enterprise Solutions (AES) provides agriculture-focused forecasts for growing regions around the world from expert agricultural meteorologists, helping clients to manage risk, highlight opportunity, and increase profitability. Contact us at 814-235-8600 or email. sales@AccuWeather.com.

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