Variety Pack

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Some major differences between regions look to be in order for the summer season of crop year 2018. This variety reflects the influence of the recently departed La Niña temperature pattern in the Pacific Ocean equatorial region that was in effect last winter into early spring, along with the prospect of the ocean temperatures evolving into a warm pattern, even reaching El Niño levels, by fall. In total, summer conditions appear favorable for at least trend-line yields on major crops. However, northern, central and eastern areas have the most favorable-looking forecast, with southern areas facing dryness issues.

One interesting aspect of the information array that goes into the forecast is how analog years--years when similar tendencies in the Pacific occurred--acted. Those analog years with similar circumstances are 1951, 1963, 2006 and 2009. Two out of those four years--1963 and 2009--saw record corn production along with record yields. The year 2006 saw corn production attain No. 3 ranking in history, with the second-highest yield on record. And, crop year 1951, while not posting record status, was above average for that period in history. In short, the setup we have going into summer 2018 offers potential for a good overall harvest.

Following is a rundown of the summer weather outlook for major crop areas:

MIDWEST: Look for temperatures near to even borderline below normal with variable precipitation. Some drier trends may be noted in the Upper Midwest during the summer. However, it bears mention that it’s that northern area which took in some heavy precipitation during a slow start to fieldwork and planting this spring. As a result, soil moisture is in good supply for crops to draw on in the event of warm and dry spells. Soil-moisture reserves will be needed as crops go through the critical reproductive phases. The overall seasonal temperature pattern does offer a promising framework for crop yields.

NORTHERN PLAINS: Temperatures and precipitation both have near-normal seasonal signals. The temperature values could actually turn out a little below normal. Precipitation may vary quite a bit during the season, with June and July drier, and August offering the best chance for moisture across the region. Some midsummer dryness could be stressful in the western half of the region, where soil moisture on a long-term basis has yet to fully rebuild after the flash drought of 2017.

SOUTHERN PLAINS: Temperatures have an above-normal look in the forecast, with precipitation totals no more than normal. The precipitation chances do improve by the last part of the summer. Until then, the impact of the 2017–18 La Niña in producing harsh drought conditions will still be in effect. Are we likely to see improvement or easing of drought? Yes, but no more than a one-category upgrade in the U.S. Drought Monitor assessment. That is easing, but it’s much different than ending drought. Prospects for warming in the equatorial Pacific to El Niño levels, and the subsequent higher chance for precipitation in the Southern Plains during the last few months of the year will be closely monitored. Irrigation usage will be high in all sectors during summer 2018.

DELTA AND SOUTHEAST: Expect temperatures above normal, with precipitation near to below normal. June and August look to be the driest. And, within this large area, the Delta has the best chance of midsummer precipitation. For the Southeast, the Bermuda High influence appears set to be a strong feature, promoting a drier trend and allowing for temperatures to work into the above-normal bracket.

MID-ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST: Indications are strong in favor of a mild and wet pattern--near- to above-normal temperatures, and above-normal precipitation. This combination appears favorable for 2018 crops.

FAR WEST: Summer heat with above-normal temperatures is on the way for the region. Midseason is on track to be the hottest segment. We may see some easing of heat during late summer. On the precipitation side, the typical dry season looks set to be in evidence again this year.

NORTHWEST: Temperatures above normal with precipitation below normal. A hot and dry scenario will favor wheat quality at harvest; there should be very few occurrences of sprouting, a circumstance which reduces quality for export. However, pastures and hay will depend even more on irrigation, and any soil moisture buildup from last winter will be called upon extensively for crop sustenance.

The long-term feature of consistent atmosphere warming during overnight hours will again be a key item this summer. Warm nighttime minimum temperatures during the fill stages for crops have been shown to be unfavorable for crop performance. With the overall temperature pattern offering above-normal conditions for many areas, this facet of our summer weather could add an additional challenge to crop yield.

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