Forecaster projects La Niña to fade this spring

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, February 1, 2012 -La Niña, a cooling of equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns, is expected to fade away this spring, offering many U.S. growers a slightly better outlook over 2011, said David Streit, COO and senior weather forecaster for Commodity Weather Group.

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Citing the latest ENSO (El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation) outlook showing La Niña will likely weaken by mid-spring, Streit said typically, the spring season following the Pacific-borne weather pattern is more likely to have above normal precipitation and mild summers.

“Lack of summer heat should limit stress in drier western Midwest corn and soybeans and lead to above normal yields in the eastern Midwest,” Streit told farmers and ranchers gathered for the Auburn Agency meeting.

Still, said Streit, a slow start to the spring season should be expected, with potential elevated risk for late frost in the Canadian Prairies, Northern Plains and northwestern Midwest. A cool early spring will also bring a slow start to early planting due to cool soils in the Midwest and Northern Plains.

Streit told Nebraska farmers earlier this week to expect planting delays this spring for corn and soybeans. Also, moisture shortages in the Plains region are likely to cut into winter wheat yield potential for a second year. Despite above normal rains in the southern Plains, he said drought conditions linger in more than half of the winter wheat belt.

The Missouri River basin will likely be safe from flooding this year. However, wetness across the Ohio River Valley and mid-Mississippi could make that area vulnerable to flooding if spring rains come on strong.

“Only two to six inches of snow cover in less than a quarter of the Missouri River basin fell this season versus nearly two to four feet in nearly all of the drainage basin last year,” he said. “Much drier conditions across northwestern Midwest and Northern Plains this year ensure that repeat flooding on the Missouri is minimal.”

The easing of La Niña this spring also could potentially ease the drought in South America, Streit said. The weather pattern brought hot, dry weather to Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, harming recently planted crops. The drought in Argentina caused an estimated 18 percent below average loss to the nation's corn yields, he said, but this year's soybean crop could fare better.

“An upturn in February rains in Argentina may help to sustain stable development of soybeans, but drier March conditions still a concern for Argentine soybeans during pod setting,” Streit said.

He added that Brazil's yield predictions are stronger, with favorable weather conditions for soybeans and second crop corn yields at normal or above average levels.

Elsewhere, China will likely see a bumper wheat crop but a dry summer in northern China could cut into its corn and soybean output, Streit said. He also predicted that Russia may face drought conditions this year, but European precipitation levels appear favorable.



Original story printed in February 1, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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