Ag Weather Forum

Dryness Showing Up Again

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Ho-hum. Lah-dee-dah. Those two "never may care" phrases are how I imagine the collective psyche of the commodity trade to be regarding crop weather this midwinter. I'll be honest and say that I'm not used to this -- not after the last three winters when crop yields -- especially corn -- were low enough to help cause a very tight supply. (I know, there were demand factors in that formula as well.) So, maybe what I perceive as dismissive notions on what the weather patterns have been since last fall are just the normal (whatever that is) state of affairs during the U.S. crop season down time: a relaxing -- a time out -- some getting away from the cares of the moment before everything starts up again in March or so.

When the trade does get around to thinking about this 2014 crop year, though, there could be some attention and possibly concern over a lack of moisture in quite a bit of the country. A look at the Water Year precipitation -- that's moisture taken in since Oct. 1, 2013 -- shows that many areas are running at no more than 50% of normal precipitation. The water year is important, because with active plant cycles largely done by Oct. 1, precipitation that falls is most likely to go into re-building soil moisture supplies for the next year. The Northern Plains has had abundant moisture, and the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley region has tallied above-normal moisture as well. But, otherwise, there's plenty of dryness. The deficit is most notable in the western U.S. But, the southwestern Plains region has not done very well, and there's a large swath of the Midwest in Iowa, Missouri and central Illinois, as well as much of the Delta-Deep South where these dry trends are going on also.

Are the moisture-deficient areas stark or dramatic enough to all of a sudden flip trade thinking to worries about crops this year? Probably not; after all, there was plenty of dryness a year ago, and we all know what happened during late winter and spring when the big rains came. But, in terms of sorting out issues and making sure the bases are covered, the drier conditions since last fall are worth noting. There are some high-output crop districts where not that much precipitation has occurred, and soil moisture (or lack thereof) may get at least a skosh more attention in about six weeks or so.


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