Spring Forecast Brings Mixed Reviews

The latest Planalytics Life Sciences agricultural spring forecast Webinar provides some interesting insights.

U.S. weather is currently affected by a La Niña event, the term used to describe a cooler-than-average sea surface temperature trend in the equatorial Pacific off the South American coast. The current La Niña began in September 2007.

To determine what might be in store for the 2008 season, Fred Gesser. Planalytics Life Sciences’ senior business meteorologist, looked at the other La Niña years going back to 1950. Taking into account sea surface temperatures, soil conditions, and temperatures, he determined the closest La Niña years were 1955, 1989, and 1999, at varying degrees.

Using a composite of those years, here is a summary of Planalytics’ predictions:

  • Midwest corn and soybean growers should expect warmer-than-normal temperatures in April and May, canceling out the cold March. The western Corn Belt soil moisture is on the dry side in much of Minnesota, northern Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. “Here we take a chance and go with early planting. That planting will get some moisture in May and June, which could be significant to keeping the corn crop out of the heat of summer with an early planting.”
  • The precipitation pattern in the eastern Corn Belt tell a very different planting story, says Gesser. To begin with, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana are already wetter than normal, and that will persist into April in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and down into southern Missouri and Arkansas. “This becomes very important because we’re looking at planting delays. People will want to get that corn in early to keep the corn at the higher yield level, but I see that being a problem in the eastern Corn Belt.” He adds that the warmer April/May temperatures will be especially important to drying out those wet soils.
  • Growers in the eastern Corn Belt should also expect to have problems with winter wheat emerging into wet conditions. “That could prompt disease and pest infestations throughout the eastern growing areas,” Gesser says.
  • In April and May, Gesser says “nothing is really setting up across the Deep South and California.”
  • The Pacific Northwest will a little bit cooler than normal. “That might affect the cherry and apple industries out there,” he says.
  • Despite an better-than-normal May rainfall in Texas, two months of dryness will precede that. The dominant condition in the Plains is dryness up into the northwest Corn Belt.
  • Expect an expanding dryness, even drought, from North Carolina up into the Eastern Seaboard.

Gesser also provided a peak into Planalytics’ summer forecast, but just for June. The comparative years — 1955, 1989, and 1999 — show “improved rain conditions into Minnesota and Iowa, wet conditions potentially into Kansas and Oklahoma. This will be the second year in a row that we have wet conditions in Kansas during the wheat harvest timeframe,” he says. “I’m holding off on the drought for the month of June,” he says.

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