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Repeating '83 crop woes?

Jeff Caldwell 06/09/2011 @ 9:38am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Do you remember your 1983 crop? A lot of farmers whose struggles that year remain fresh in their minds say this spring is so far shaping up much like that year, when corn and soybean yields were 22% and 17% below trend.

On the surface, there are a lot of similarities so far: A wet spring in the Midwest and Delta and cool temperatures in the northern Plains, both of which have created some fairly clear correlations, says CropCAST senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley. "This has led to a delayed planting season across the Corn Belt, which followed the planting pace seen in 1983 to some degree."

But, despite the apparently common conditions between 1983 and 2011 to date, that's where the similarities end, Tapley says. Though it's been wet this spring, the severity of weather extremes in 1983 were a lot more serious.

"While the spring precipitation pattern this year was similar to 1983 in some ways, it was much wetter across the northern and western Midwest and northern Plains this spring than it was in 1983," according to a CropCAST report. "It was also much warmer across the South and East this year compared to 1983."

There's also the Atlantic oscillation, a weather term more commonly reflected in the presence of an El Nino or La Nina pattern off the U.S. East Coast. There's a big difference between 1983 and 2011 when you look at this pattern, Tapley says.

"Looking at some of the teleconnections we look at to create seasonal forecasts, there really is not much in common between this year and 1983," Tapley says. "In 1983, we were exiting a strong El Nino, while this year we are exiting a strong La Nina. The PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) was positive in 1983, but is negative this year.  The AMO (Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation) was negative in 1983, but is positive this year."

It all adds up to a much more seasonal summer than what unfolded in 1983, a year that hammered corn and soybean yields, Tapley adds.

"CropCAST's summer outlook calls for near normal temperatures across the Midwest, with below normal rainfall limited to far western portions of the Corn Belt," he says.

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