Unusual North Dakota snow storm cripples corn and soybean harvests
“The normal temperature (east central North Dakota) on Oct. 11 is 49F, while the observed average temperature the day the storm hit was 31F. This represents an event in the 90th percentile so, temperatures in this range can occur around once per decade. However, the combination of cold with a winter storm is much more rare. The last instance of such a snowstorm this early was Oct. 9, 2005, in North Dakota. Prior to that event, it had been 130 years so, the cold plus snow is something that only happens once or twice a century,” said Isaac Hankes, Weather Research Analyst.
“Starting late last Thursday, a historical blizzard enveloped the U.S. Northern Plains and northern portions of the Midwest, leaving 2-20 inches (5-50 cm) of snow covering the eastern half of North Dakota, and the northern halves of South Dakota and Minnesota. Additionally, sustained hard freeze conditions were felt in southern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and portions of Nebraska. This constitutes an area of 8-10 million acres of corn and over 12-15 million acres of soybeans. Critically, by the time the storm struck around 11 October an estimated one-third of corn and one-fifth of soybeans had yet to reach full maturity, meaning that grain and pod fill were not fully completed. While impacts to immature crops vary depending on developmental progress, they include lowered yields and diminished quality in terms of starch accumulation and protein levels. And in areas affected by deep snow and strong winds, loss in areas to be harvested. For purchasers like animal feeders and food and beverage companies, this means less crop and generally lower quality, said Daniel Redo, director, agriculture research.
According to USDA, the U.S. still has 12.5 million tons of soybeans on the balance sheet. This is half the total from last year (24.8 MMT), but still the second highest on record. 2019/20 ending stocks are anywhere between double and triple the amount of stock on hand that the U.S. had prior to the trade war. Exports to China have increased lately as part of goodwill purchases and supply will be reduced by the recent freeze/snow event resulting in localized shortages, but the U.S. needs sustained exports to China similar to previous year’s level to get stocks down to pre-trade war levels. U.S. production this year will be the lowest in at least five years. But stocks have been building for years due to the trade war and lack of demand from China due to African Swine Fever.”
Illustrating the unusual weather, the chart focuses on the east central region of North Dakota, the heart of the snowfall event. The graphic demonstrates the uptick in observed precipitation from the two-day event, during which 20+ inches of snowfall was received in some areas. ❖