2009 harvest feels like 2008
By KRISS NELSON
Farm News staff writer
Although the calendar shows that it’s 2009, many producers and experts would agree that it seems just like the fall of 2008.
“We are seeing another delayed season like last year in some respects,” said DTN Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson during last week’s Fall Weather Outlook Webinar.
Anderson, and fellow DTN Meteorologist Mike Palmerino, discussed how the Pacific Ocean is in a weak El Nino, evidenced by a delayed frost in North America and rains that brought needed drought relief in South America.
Support for the El Nino, Palmerino said, is very limited and that there are indications it could be a very short lived, weak El Nino event.
Rather than focusing on the Pacific, Palmerino said he prefers to look at the northern branch jet stream.
“In my mind, I’m looking less at the Pacific and more at the northern jet stream or Canadian jet stream to be a more dominant feature as we go into fall and winter, and that could be problematic,” said Palmerino.
“My overall feeling is looking at last year’s pattern, and also looking at 2004 a little bit, is that the freeze will probably be later than normal this year, but once things do start to develop it could deteriorate fairly rapidly in terms of the harvest weather potentially as early as the latter part of October.”
Anderson noted the average Iowa first frost dates as Spencer on Sept. 30; Sioux City on Oct. 3; Fort Dodge on Oct. 4, Mason City on Oct. 6 and Des Moines on Oct. 12.
Surprising many, Anderson said, is the warm fall Iowa is expriencing considering the cool summer, including the coldest July on record.
“Coming out of the cold summer there was really all of this concern regarding this cold pattern continuing into early fall and having some sort of disaster on our hands like we did in 1974 where we had late planting then a Labor Day freeze in the upper Midwest,” said Palmerino.
Palmerino said he doesn’t want to dismiss many similarities of this year’s growing season to last year’s “Where we also saw a late freeze like we may this year.”
“These cool summers seem to relax a little bit in the fall before becoming rejuvenated again and go back into a colder, stormy pattern again later into the fall. I think that’s really how to look at things this year,” said Palmerino.
With the prospect of a late harvest for many, Anderson said it is a concern to him because “our days our getting shorter, meaning less sun to help dry crops down.”
Palmerino said Iowa will be losing more sunshine each day for the rest of the year which makes it increasingly more difficult as autumn extends itself.
“We just don’t have the sun helping dry out after a precipitation event,” he said. It’s going to be increasingly harder to dry out as we go deeper into fall.”
Just the amount and what kind of precipitation we get is really the big unknown, Palmerino said, and with the late harvest there are going to be some issues.
“At this point we’re not looking for any extremes or to bury the Midwest corn crop under a foot of snow on Oct. 25 or anything like that. But certainly the ability to dry things down and get the harvest done early this year is certainly suspect,” said Palmerino.
Wind could also be an issue for weakened stalks that are more susceptible to being blown over.
Palmerino said that depending on the extent of the jet streams, the Midwest could be looking at “some fairly significant storms that could cause some strong winds. These,” he predicts, “will be more evident in the northern belt and especially, around the Great Lakes.”
As far as getting more of the corn crop to black layer and soybeans outlasting frost, both Anderson and Palmerino agree Midwest producers have “a pretty good shot of getting there,” but were expecting the weather to deteriorate, which occurred this week.
“The one hallmark of the growing season is that Mother Nature has been able to take producers through every hurdle despite some of the set backs we’ve had this year,” said Palmerino. “We’ve managed to march forward with very good-looking crops and big crops out there and there’s no real reason to think the weather’s not going to continue to be cooperative.
“There may be some bumps in the road but when it’s all said and done, producers are looking at a rather miraculous year considering all they’ve had to deal with.”
Contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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