Farm meeting weather conversation has focused almost 100 percent on this set of questions: "Will the Pacific change character from El Nino to La Nina this year? When will it start? How bad will it be? Will it be bad enough to force corn prices to where they were three years ago?"
My answers have been as follows: "Possibly late summer into fall. Not until July at the earliest. Probably not a crop-threatening event. No."
Those comments were prepared and discussed before the early-February ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation) forecast plume was posted by the International Research Institute on Climate and Society (IRI). The IRI forecast plume is a representation of the consensus of forecast model renditions of the Pacific Ocean pattern for the balance of this year. The mid-January model consensus featured a near-50 percent chance for La Nina to form by the July-August-September time frame. This development, featuring the Pacific Ocean temperatures turning to cooler than normal -- and helping to bring dry and hot conditions to the central U.S. -- would be stressful to crops.
However, the Pacific remains very warm in the equator region; it's the warmest in that part of the ocean since 1997-98. That warmth was going to take a while to moderate. And, the model consensus now indicates that modification of the equatorial Pacific is proceeding at a slower pace. Ocean temperatures now show up as neutral for the entire summer season, followed by a 42 percent chance for either neutral or La Nina in the August-September-October time frame, with La Nina chances not being most prominent until a 50 percent chance in the September-October-November period. That's well into the Northern Hemisphere fall season before La Nina develops.
With this type of ocean evolution, the idea of crops showing decent production potential remains a valid viewpoint. As noted in this blog space in late January, the long-term trendline yield numbers of 165 bushels per acre on corn, and 45 bushels per acre on soybeans, are possibly the top end for performance this year, but those numbers still indicate a lot of crops coming out of the fields in 2016.
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