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Argentina Drought Threatens Planting of New Corn Crop

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Increasingly dry conditions in Argentina’s corn growing regions, brought on by a third consecutive La Niña climate event, raise the risk of lower production in the world’s third-largest corn exporter. 

That’s a big concern given how tight corn supplies are around the world. The USDA earlier this week cut its outlook for US corn production to the lowest level in three years, as Gro wrote about here. And amid disappointing yields in Europe due to drought, and continued risks to crops in Ukraine, a reduced corn harvest in Argentina would be another blow to food security worldwide.

Soil moisture readings in Argentina’s biggest corn growing provinces of Santa Fe, Cordoba, and Buenos Aires — which together account for 75% of the country’s total corn production — are close to their lowest level in more than a decade. In addition, the Gro Drought Index is at its fourth-highest level in nearly 20 years, as seen in this display from Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, which allows users to weight growing conditions for specific crops and locations. 

Rains will be critical in the coming weeks to ensure planting intentions for Argentina’s first corn crop can be met before the optimal period for planting finishes by the end of October.

Argentina’s early corn is normally planted in September-October and harvested in April-May. A late corn crop is sown in December-January and harvested in June-July. Producers could decide to shift more of their planting to the second crop corn, or switch to soybeans, which are typically planted in the November-December period. 

Gro’s Crop Calendar shows the planting, growing, and harvesting periods for corn and soybeans in Argentina and Brazil. 

La Niña, which is making a rare appearance for a third year in a row, often leads to hot and dry conditions for Argentina. Such adverse growing conditions in 2021/22 slashed yields by 7.3% year over year. But a double-digit increase in area harvested gave a small boost to production for the year. This Gro Portal display includes charts on Argentina’s corn crop and exports. 

Gro’s machine-learning Argentina Corn Yield Forecast Model will provide daily updates on the crop’s prospects starting around mid-December, when the crop gets established. The model can be monitored within Gro’s Argentina Corn Monitor, which also includes Gro Drought Index and temperature readings, and Gro’s Argentina Corn Balance Sheet showing current and historical supply and demand data. 

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