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Will the drought repeat in 2013?

By Staff | Sep 6, 2012



BOONE – Since the likelihood of two years having the same weather pattern back to back is only 20 percent, one meteorologist said farmers should look at long-term, seasonal forecasts as they look ahead to 2013.

“This has been a very extreme weather year,” said Jeff Doran, a senior business meteorologist with Planalytics, during an Aug. 28 presentation at the Farm progress Show in Boone. Doran said La Nina conditions tend to bring volatile weather. “We’re now undergoing a transition from La Nina to El Nino, which means more moderate weather patterns.”

El Nino harvest seasons also tend to bring later freezes, he said, although September isn’t likely to bring many above-normal temperatures. While temperatures are expected to be normal or below-normal this fall, the precipitation outlook for September and October is normal- to above-normal for much of Iowa.

Based on the weather patterns that are shaping up, Doran said, the winter of 2012-2013 will likely be colder and snowier than the past winter.

“It appears that 2013 is going to be a much different year than 2012,” he said. “The question becomes, how much moisture can we get back in the months ahead?”

Manage higher yields

Due to the 2012 drought, farmers have been looking into drought-tolerant corn hybrids for 2013. Dr. Fred Below, a professor of plant physiology at the University of Illinois, said he has not been impressed by what he’s seen so far in his trials.

“While I think there’s fantastic potential with drought-tolerant corn hybrids in the years ahead, the ones that are currently on the market were developed for traditionally lower-yielding areas like Kansas and western Nebraska. These hybrids aren’t so good for Iowa and Illinois, but they are the first wave of a critical management tool.”

A year like 2012 shows the huge range of diversity that exists in hybrids from every seed company, Below said, who also spoke at the FPS. He told growers to spread their risk by planting a variety of hybrids and brands.

“I know farmers tend to be brand loyal, but there are good hybrids and bad hybrids from every seed company.

“Hybrid selection is the most important decision you make every year, and it’s where farmers are losing yield potential.”

Below, who gave a presentation, “7 Wonders of the Corn World,” said planting dates are over-rated.

“You can grow 250-bushel corn at the end of May. The important thing is to provide good management right from the start, such as even depth of planting, good seed-to-soil contact, proper weed control and correct fertility.”

While it may be tempting to cut back on nutrient applications since yields will be lower in many areas this year, don’t fall into this trap, Below cautioned, urging farmers to look at soil tests, and remember they are fertilizing for the 2013 crop, not the 2012 crop. “High yields don’t come by accident, and you have to plan for them.”

In addition to proper levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, don’t don’t let micronutrients run short, Below said, especially zinc. In fact, 60 percent of the zinc that’s taken up by the corn crop is removed by the grain.

“I think (lack of) zinc is the most limiting of the micronutrients, and if you don’t have enough zinc, you’re kissing bushels goodbye.”

Fungicides offered another valuable management tool in 2012, even though the dry conditions didn’t foster major problems with disease outbreaks.

“It appears that stalk quality was heavily improved by fungicides this year,” said Below, who has seen better standability in corn that was treated with fungicide.

Dry conditions easing

While weather remains the No. 1 factor that impacts yield, and no one can change the weather, farmers can use historical information and long-term forecasts to help manage risk, said Jed Lafferty, managing director of life sciences for Planalytics, which provides business weather intelligence.

While January to June was the warmest six-month period in the history of weather records dating back to 1895, these extreme conditions are not likely to repeat again, Lafferty said.

“We’re starting to see some changes that portend much better news for the future.

“While we won’t completely alleviate the drought, we should start seeing significant improvements in many areas.

“The one thing we can bank on is that 2013 won’t look like 2012.”

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