OMAHA (DTN) -- Missouri state climatologist Pat Guinan knew drought fortunes in the Midwest were changing almost six months ago, when a moderate to heavy rain event moved across portions of the Midwest.
"We had 1 to 2 inches of rain across Missouri, and the soils had no frost -- which allowed the moisture to all work into the soil profile," Guinan said.
The rain continued in the Midwest, especially during spring with rainfall records rewritten. Rochester, Minn., had a record 21 inches of precipitation, an astounding 13 inches above normal. Iowa had its wettest spring ever "by quite a ways," said Iowa state climatologist Harry Hillaker. The Iowa statewide average precipitation for March to the end of May was 17.67 inches, 2.31 inches greater than the old record of 15.36 inches set in May 1892.
Rain and wet soils have caused some problems for corn. Corn acreage is expected to drop 2 million acres from last spring's estimated 97.3 (USDA March 28) because of wet conditions. Also, corn planting got going late; 43% of the estimated planting for this season was done in just one week during the middle of May.
Continued periods of rain during June meant growing degree day totals are low for the season. From Illinois west in the Corn Belt, growing degree day totals from April 1 are from 100 to 200 units below average through June 16. USDA has dialed back its projection for corn yields as a result, from more than 163 bushels per acre, cited in last February's ag outlook conference, to 156.5 bpa in the June WASDE report.
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However, the most recent weather outlook for summer favors those yield projections at least remaining stable. Iowa State University climate scientist Chris Anderson said two large-scale atmospheric features seem to favor a beneficial trend for corn this summer.
"We don't have a La Nina going on in the Pacific right now; neutral conditions are expected in the Pacific through the fall," Anderson said. "We also have an area of high pressure originating near the island of Bermuda that can sometimes bring a stressful hot pattern inland, but that is not likely to happen this year. And third, forecasts for hurricane activity are for a larger-than-average number. This implies that a killer southeast U.S. ridge is not likely this year."
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino is also confident the focus of dry conditions since spring over the southern Rockies is favorable regarding the corn crop managing to avoid a sudden onset of heat and dryness.
"In general when we see a ridge set up in this region (Southwest) during the summer, it tends to persist with no significant penetration into the Midwest," Palmerino noted in a blog June 24.
How is the market likely to take such an outlook? Quite confidently, in the opinion of DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom, especially following hot and dry outbursts which curtailed corn yields during the past three seasons.
"A return to near normal ... should be viewed as neutral to bearish," Newsom said. "The argument will be made that a lack of excessive heat will allow for better pollination than what we've seen the last three years, possibly leading to a stabilization in yield."
Bryce Anderson can be reached at email@example.com
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