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Why Rain in the Corn Belt Couldn’t Come at a Better Time

Corn continues to be on track for an all-time record output. (John Roach/AccuWeather)

By John Roach, AccuWeather staff writer

Warm, dry weather may be ideal in June for camping, hiking and baseball (oh, wait, thanks, coronavirus!), but crops need the benefits of rain. For farmers in the Corn Belt, the timing couldn’t be better for what’s ahead. 

Several Midwestern states “are running well below normal” for precipitation, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel. “They need it the most out in the western part of the Corn Belt, like eastern South Dakota, western Minnesota and western Iowa where they’re roughly 50 to 75 percent below normal precipitation over the last three months.

“Now, it’s looking like they have a chance to get normal rainfall the next two weeks starting Thursday,” he said. “The corn will be hitting the pollination stage in mid- to late July, and the plants need to be watered going into that period. And they’ve had a week where there has been little to no rain.” 

Corn continues to be on track for an all-time record output. AccuWeather predicts total corn production will be 15.708 billion bushels, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is estimating 15.995 billion bushels. 

The current U.S. record for annual corn production is 15.15 billion bushels in 2016, while last year, due to heavy spring rains and flooding, the total was just 13.692 billion bushels. The latest crop data from the USDA offers no reason to change those estimates as corn is tracking well. 

“The next four to six weeks makes or breaks the corn crop,” said AccuWeather Commodities Analyst Jim Candor. “The pollination this year based on when the corn was planted will be between July 10 and July 30. Roughly 90 percent of the crop will pollinate then, so that’s when it’s most critical.”

Barring problems with a possible second wave of the coronavirus, farmers also continue to see good signs from the ethanol production market. Roughly 40 percent of corn grown is used for ethanol, and for the week ending June 5, ethanol production was up to 837,000 barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That’s a drastic 55 percent improvement from its low of 537,000 the week of April 17 but still below the 1.005 million barrels per day produced the week of March 20.