February 25, 2013

Plan for continued drought?

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hdc3We don’t like to think about it, but recent conference speakers have warned farmers in the western Corn Belt and Plains states that dry conditions are likely to continue this spring and summer.

Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services spoke at the Intl FCStone Agricultural and Economic Outlook Meeting in Las Vegas recently, according to AgWeb. "Once drought is in place, it can be self-sustaining and perpetuating," he says. "We’ve been in a very persistent pattern through the winter to date."

Tapley also looked back at weather records over the last 60 years, looking at droughts in 1953, 1955, 1970, 1983 and 1988. Only the 1988 drought was similar in scale and intensity, but all of those droughts tended to linger into the next year. The only saving grace is that dryness was not as extreme in the following summer, he says.

El Nino and La Nina ocean temperatures are also in a neutral phase this year, so they are not expected to be a big driver of weather patterns and rain events.

Thankfully, large snow dumps this past week have helped, but have not been a “drought buster” as some have been forecasting.

State climatologist, Al Dutcher, recently gave an update at the Women in Ag conference and shared that he is ”not overly optimistic, but at least I’m optimistic from the standpoint that I’m seeing features in the atmosphere that might give us the ability to generate some more—better—spring storm activity than we’ve been accustomed to over this last 15-month period.”

Despite the weather experts’ forecasts, the USDA expects a full recovery, estimating that U.S. farmers are likely to produce a record 14.53 billion bushels of corn and a record 3.405 billion bushels of soybeans in 2013.

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