Better genetics and more efficient and precise crop management techniques are enabling farmers to offset fluctuations in yields due to weather concerns in many years to remain the most resilient suppliers of coarse grains to global markets.
Currently, the weather cycles in effect around the world are repeating history in an El Nino cycle, leading to a potential La Nina event.
In simple weather terms, an El Nino is a warm weather event, or a warming of the equatorial Pacific, and a La Nina is the polar opposite - a cooling of the equatorial Pacific.
“This past summer, we saw warmer than normal temperatures across the U.S., and the CPC recorded that there have been only three instances since 1950 when temperature departures have been this large during April to June,” says Al Dutcher, Nebraska Extension state climatologist who specializes in climate data analysis, crop/weather relationships and related subjects.
If the El Nino event remains active heading into this upcoming summer, drier than normal conditions will likely prevail across a sizeable portion of the eastern Corn Belt, according to Dutcher. If the El Nino begins its switch to La Nina conditions, then there is a tendency for dry conditions to develop across the Midwest during the second half of the growing season, with drier than normal conditions prevailing through the fall and winter months.
“Looking at the most current forecasts, El Nino looks to have reached its peak and is now starting to weaken, going back to near neutral conditions into the late spring/early summer period,” Dutcher said. “We can see significant late winter and early spring precipitation events here in the Central Plains.”
U.S. farmers have a recent example of how dramatically weather can affect grain markets: the 2012 drought.
“Weather is a factor in every grain market, every year. During and well after the 2012 drought, USGC had a consistent conversation with international buyers on crop status, drought monitor updates and more,” says Tom Sleight, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) president and CEO.
“We ended up having the eighth largest corn crop in U.S. history, which reassured customers of the diversity, depth and resilience of U.S. coarse grain production.”
Sleight said that each year is a new opportunity to bring information to global buyers on the status of U.S. crop conditions, including weather during planting, the critical pollination period, the growing season in general and harvest. All of these events garner global attention because they play a large role in determining U.S. crop quality and quantity.