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By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

CLARION, Iowa — La Nina is one of the factors Iowa State University Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor watches when predicting the weather for the growing season.

It appears to be getting stronger.

"The Pacific Ocean water may be starting to warm, and some say La Nina is starting to die," Taylor told farmers at last week’s annual meeting of the Northern Iowa Research Farm at the Heartland Museum in Clarion. "But as of yesterday, it’s stronger than it’s ever been."

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If La Nina continues into June, there is a 72 percent chance of a below trend-line corn yield. The national trend line for corn is 151 bushels per acre. Given all the weather factors, Taylor is predicting a national average yield of 142 bushels.

"If we see 142 bushels per acre, the price of December futures when you are harvesting will be $7.29 per bushel," Taylor said. "If we had a major drought and a national average yield of 136, I can’t even think what the price would be, but we have to be ready."

The most volatile month for price was June 1988 until last year, and 2008 is setting another record.

"1988’s volatility was due to supply, and 2007 was due to demand," Taylor said. "In 2008 we may have both supply and demand volatility. You would be ahead of the game if you knew the yield volatility of your farm."

Taylor said conditions resemble 1987 to 1988, the last time the nation had a widespread drought.

"These two years are the most alike of any years in the past 50," Taylor said.

Serious drought tends to follow a 19-year cycle and the next four years fall into the higher risk portion of that cycle, Taylor said. The majority of seasonal weather indicators imply increased crop production risk for the 2008 crop season.

Dry conditions persists in the southeast United States, Taylor said.

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One favorable sign is that soil moisture levels are good throughout most of the state.

Taylor’s advice to farmers?

"Baby your soil, get plants established and rooted and protect them from stress from weeds, insects and diseases," Taylor said. "Manage your risk financially with the tools that are available. If the worst happens, you’ll still be okay."

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