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Weather to be crop story in 2012

By Staff | Mar 14, 2012

Dr. Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University ag climatologist


Farm News staff writer

DUNCAN – Officially, it was billed as the annual meeting of Iowa State’s Northern Research Farm located at Kanawha.

But for the farmers attending the meeting held at the community hall at Duncan, on March 8, it was a chance to hear the latest on the approaching crop year. As in 2011, the outcome of the 2012 growing season is likely to be more dominated by the weather, than other management influences.

What the audience heard was if the existing La Nina weather pattern continues this summer, the predicted corn yield could be less than 148 bushels per acre nationally with Chicago December corn priced at $6.60.

But if an El Nino pattern develops, the U.S. corn yield could be greater than 168 bushels per acre with Chicago December corn at $5 per bushel.

Looking ahead to growing conditions in 2012, Taylor said the past dry conditions are persisting as evidenced by tile lines that are not running.

The drought monitor as published by University of Nebraska Lincoln shows as of Nov. 1, 2011 much of Iowa was in a drought that ranged from abnormally dry in eastern Iowa to moderate and severe drought in the rest of the state. Much of crop district two was in severe drought.

Taylor gave the La Nina outlook saying that there is a 50 percent chance that La Nina will persist into summer and a 50 percent chance that El Nino conditions will begin immediately.

In coming weeks, Taylor told farmers, watch weather conditions in Arkansas. Arkansas is six weeks ahead of Iowa in weather at planting time. If that state is wet, Iowa will be wet 82 percent of the time.

Updates from Taylor are available on Twitter. It is not necessary to sign up with Twitter to read Taylor’s postings.

To see them, go to Google and enter “Twitter search, then enter Elwynn Taylor’s name and click on his name when it appears on the screen. His latest messages will appear.

On March 10, two days after the Duncan meeting, Taylor posted a note on Twitter reading, “Reduced chance of continued La Nina increases the possibility of an above trend U.S. corn (yield) in 2012.”

Taylor quoted Dr. Klaus Wolter, a climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who reduced the chance of La Nina conditions continuing into June at 30 percent instead of 50 percent.

Wolter said there is a distinct possibility that El Nino conditions could exist by mid-2012.

Corn yields

Taylor began the meeting with what he foresaw for the 2012 crop year.

The first slide of his presentation was about corn yields over the last 30 years showing numbers covering the U.S., Iowa and, specifically, north central Iowa.

It is no surprise that the trend in corn yields is up, Taylor said. Iowa yields are increasing at just over two bushels per year.

Iowa is divided into nine crop districts, with district two comprising north central Iowa and the Kanawha research farm.

Yield trends for district two are increasing at 2 bushels per acre, just under the state average, Taylor said.

The reason for this, according to Taylor is that precipitation is up 10 percent since 1970.

While this is not good for Indiana, Illinois and north central Iowa, it has helped increase yields in northwest Iowa, thereby raising the state average.

Taylor encouraged farmers to chart their past yields and compare them with data available on yield averages for their individual counties. This will be beneficial when buying crop insurance, he said.

Another slide showed corn yields from 1925 to 2011. The chart was divided into 19-year intervals of stable and unstable yields. Taylor said it appears we are emerging from the end of another 19-year period of stability that started in the mid-1990s.

Taylor foresees increasing market volatility in the coming years.

“Get ready for it to get serious,” Taylor said.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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