How Does This Year Compare? - Friday, 24 June 2016

This week has not been much of a confidence booster for farmers with regards to the forecasted hot and dry summer weather and approaching La Niña that are predicted by some to arrive very soon and drive prices higher.  The weather in the Corn Belt has a remarkable resemblance between the 1982-83 totals to the current 2015-16 totals and many comparisons have been made between these years.  The Van Trump Report had an interesting graph from T-Storm Weather that charts the precipitation from these years and shows us these similarities. 

An additional comparison relates the significant likenesses between yields of 1981 and 2014 and the yields of 1982 and 2015.  Of course we have no data for 2016 as of yet but if we were to continue to follow this pattern to the next step…comparing 1983 and 2016 we would find a decrease in the national yield this season IF this pattern holds true.

  • 1981- The U.S. had a record crop of 8.119 billion bushels with an average yield of 108.9 bushels per acre.
  • 1982- Another record crop harvested of 8.235 billion bushels of corn with an average yield in the U.S, of 113.2 bushels per acre.
  • 1983- The average yield in the U.S. fell to 81.1 bushels per acre with an overall production of 4.175 billion bushels. This amounted to a massive yield reduction of -28% in just one year.
  • 2014- The U.S. produced a record breaking 14.215 billion bushels with an average yield of 171.0 bushels per acre.
  • 2015- The average national yield was 168.4 bushels per acre generating 13.601 billion bushels.
  • 2016- ?????

In contrast to this, Dr. Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University climatologist, told producers at the World Pork Expo on June 8th to expect 173 bushels per acre this year. “If (the) weather shifts suddenly to a La Niña pattern the affects will not arrive in Iowa for another 90 days, which will be too late to adversely affect yields.”  Taylor studies historical weather patterns and sees similarities in weather cycles and believes “the same weather that cut yields in half in 1936 and in the 1980’s is the same weather that will cut yields in half in the next decade or so”.  Taylor is finding that we “have just come back into a variable weather pattern like the 1980’s, and the worst weather of the century is likely to happen on either side of 2025, similar to the 1936 Dust Bowl”.   He pointed out that the Dust Bowl patterns of 1936 were first recorded in 1847, “it happens about every 90 years so it should be again during the 2020’s”.  Taylor also expects that the weather during the next decade will be controlled by the hotter and drier conditions of La Niña and the jet stream will become more volatile.  He also expects stronger winds will prevail which will blow more insects into our state from southern regions. Taylor added that 2016 could still turn into a drought year if La Niña is in place by July but if it isn’t they should turn their attention to next year.  “2017 should give cause for concern” and producers should “gear up for high-risk, below-trend yield and high feed prices in 2017.”

In a recent Reuter’s article, “No La Niña Needed for U.S. Corn, Soy Troubles” by Karen Braun, the mere absence of El Niño has risen the risk for the U.S. corn and soybean crops.  La Niña is caused by cool temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean which brings damaging heat and prolonged incidents of dry spells but even if there is not a fully developed La Niña by the end of the summer the grain markets will still see the impact.

Brian Fuchs, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has indicated that flash drought concerns for the U.S are beginning to increase.  A flash drought develops as a result of a decrease in precipitation and an increase in temperature and winds.  He says, “It (weather) looks eerily similar to what we saw in 2012 when there was no sign of drought”.  Fuchs went on to say that “right now we are not anticipating another 2012” but  temperatures from July through September are expected to be above normal and precipitation can be hit or miss.


Forecasts for next week, June 27th-July 1st expect the U.S. to see temps at or above normal nationwide with the exception of the Upper Midwest.  Rainfall is likely to be above normal for areas of the southern and eastern U.S. while the Northern Plains and the Upper Midwest look to find normal to drier than normal conditions.  Kevin Van Trump stated that, “despite the forecast I’m sticking with my bullish belief that U.S. weather is delivering more extremes and more uncertainty than it has in the past couple of high yielding years”.

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