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Outlook favors Corn Belt trend yields

Jeff Caldwell 04/24/2012 @ 9:25am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

A new outlook shows trend or above-trend corn and soybean yields could be in the cards for much of the Corn Belt this summer. That's if Mother Nature has anything to say about it.

The North American Summer Outlook from Commodity Weather Group (CWG) in Chicago, released Tuesday, shows the outlook for summer conditions is leaning toward the development of El Nino, the system of global ocean oscillation that favors better crop weather in most of the Midwest.

"While some minor stress cannot be ruled out for corn in the far western Midwest early in the summer and soybeans in the Ohio Valley late in the summer, most of the Midwest would be likely to see yields at or above trend," according to CWG's summer seasonal report released Tuesday.

Most often, El Nino years are characterized by warmer temperatures during early summer followed by cooler-than-normal temperatures for the bulk of the rest of the season with a few hot spikes in the eastern parts of the Corn Belt and Ohio Valley, according to CWG. The crop stress resulting from the early summer heat is typically limited to the northern and northwestern Plains.

The biggest risk in an El Nino forecast like this is in the duration of the system. If it cycles quickly, there's a chance that heat and dryness could return to much of the Corn Belt. But, history shows this is not too likely.

"The most notable risk to the summer forecast would be for further cooling and expanding rains through the Plains and central/western Midwest while drying out the OH Valley," according to CWG. "This would be likely to occur if the expected El Niño development occurs quickly and arrives this summer and if the current cooling trends in the North Pacific warm pool as well as warming off of the West Coast of North America persist. The chance for this remains 35%, and such a development could lead to a crop that is well above trend yield for the majority of the U.S. There is still a hotter/drier summer forecast threat that leads to a third straight problematic summer. However, the risk for this to occur has slipped to only 20%."

There have been just 2 instances in the last century when 2 largely hot, dry summers have been followed by a third, and those were all years when La Nina held on for that third year. As it appears now, that's not likely this year.

"While there certainly could still be some regional issues that prevent maximum yields from being achieved, there are many more factors that increase the risk in the cooler/wetter direction compared to the hotter/drier one at this point for the upcoming summer," according to CWG.

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