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Summer weather outlook good

By Staff | Jul 3, 2009

DES MOINES – Adequate subsoil moisture, the end of La Nina and the fact that a widespread Corn Belt drought is unlikely in 2009, are creating favorable weather conditions for July and August.

“The summer outlook is not bad news,” said Elwynn Taylor, a climatologist at Iowa State University, who noted that “yields are likely to be above trend this year.”

In fact, the summer forecast for the Corn Belt is about as near to ideal as possible, he added, since a cool summer helps corn and soybeans flourish. While more than 70 percent of the nation’s corn is rated good to excellent, meaning it’s on track for a well-above average yield, the crop’s condition at the end of July will be more meaningful, Taylor said.

Although it looks like an El Nino might develop by mid to late summer, the jury is still out, added Mike Palmerino, a DTN ag meteorologist. If an El Nino does emerge, this could reduce the amount of tropical storms and hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. One thing that’s certain is the unusual spring and early summer weather that affected some parts of the Corn Belt, Palmerino said.

“There’s a behind-the-curve start for corn pollination east of the Mississippi River, although seasonal temperatures should mean minimal heat stress. Also, since Pacific temperatures have turned neutral, there should be no major impact on pollination.”

While thousands of acres were planted late in some parts of the Midwest due to weather challenges, this doesn’t necessarily mean the crop is more vulnerable to an early freeze, Palmerino said. “The areas that are most susceptible to an early frost, including northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, were some of the first-planted areas in the Corn Belt.”

Drought plagues parts of the globe

In recent months, weather challenges have been more pronounced in a number of crop-producing areas around the globe than in the United States. By mid-June, the Canadian prairies were very dry.

From central Saskatchewan west into Alberta, the region had recorded less than half of the rainfall the area normally receives. In addition, Argentina has been very dry in major wheat-producing areas.

“Argentina has been locked in a drought for a couple of years, and this has devastated row crops,” Palmerino said. “I’m very pessimistic about the prospects there.”

In addition, China has short to very short moisture supplies in major corn and soybean producing areas. In Australia, which has experienced some dryness in the west, but has received adequate rainfall in the east, uncertainty remains. “El Nino is lurking, and it will be important to watch for dry-weather tendencies, since El Nino tends to take away moisture from Australia,” Palmerino said.

In Europe, moisture has been adequate in the central region, although dryness in Spain, Sweden and the Balkan Peninsula may impact corn production and sunflowers.

Dry conditions possible

Interestingly, precipitation patterns for Iowa show that the Hawkeye State has become wetter in the past 50 years, Taylor said. In fact, average precipitation has increased 10 percent during this period. “With more water flowing down Iowa’s rivers, it means a 100-year floods now comes every 17 years in the climate we currently live in.”

Based on historical data, however, Iowa is due to go back into a drier period, added Taylor, who cited the Benner Cycle, which accounts for the probability of widespread drought. The last major drought to hit the Corn Belt occurred in 1988. “In 800 years of history, the longest gap between major droughts was 23 years,” Taylor said.

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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