Sunday, July 15, 2012

Commodity markets discounting hopes for genetically engineered crops

Corn futures hit another record on Friday as the drought situation across the US becomes more dire.
Reuters: - Chicago corn rose for a second straight day on Friday, extending its drought-driven rally over four weeks to 45 percent, with little relief expected for the crop which has been hit by the worst drought in the U.S. grain belt in 25 years.
Corn nearby futures contract
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: - Almost a third of the nation’s corn crop has been damaged by heat and drought, and a number of farmers in the hardest hit areas of the Midwest have cut down their crops just midway through the growing season.
The damage is not limited to corn, as other major agricultural commodities undergo similar shocks.

Wheat nearby futures contract

Soy nearby futures contract

There is still hope that some crops, genetically engineered to withstand drought, could be salvaged.
SFGate: - "All these hybrids that have been produced in the last few years are built for drought tolerance so we have a little more hope that they will be able to withstand some of this heat, more so than they would have say 10 years ago," said Garry Niemeyer, who grows corn and soybeans in Auburn, Ill., and is president of the National Corn Growers Association.

He said plants have been developed with a larger root mass, which allows them to reach deeper for water and hold more in reserve. Certain varieties also are capable of rolling up their leaves to slow moisture loss.
But the commodity markets are skeptical (with futures hitting new highs) because even the best genetic engineering can't help the situation when there is no rain and high temperatures persist for weeks.
SFGate: - Corn plants today withstand drought better than they did in 1988, but no variety exists that can produce significant yields without rain for six weeks and sustained temperatures above 100 degrees, said Tony Vyn, an agronomy professor at Purdue University.

"You get to the point where the water shortage is so severe that technology is not going to guarantee yield, even when you might have that expectation," he said. "My experience thus far is that drought-tolerant hybrids are no silver bullet."

Source: The Weather Channel
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