Weather is always on a farmer’s mind, but the potential shift  this year from the El Niño to La Niña weather pattern has intensified the conversation. For our last I-80 Planting Report, we talk with two meteorologists on their outlooks for the growing season and the possibility of a La Niña this year.

A farmer knows you can’t control the weather.

“I don’t let the weather get to me as much as I did 25 years ago when I was much, much younger,” says Defiance County, Ohio, farmer Keith Schroeder.

In that time, forecasting has changed as well, thanks to new tools and technologies. Right now,  AgDay Meteorologist Mike Hoffman is anticipating a warmer 90-day outlook for most of the country this summer. “That’s in the Northern, Central Plains, the entire Corn Belt, all the way through the northeastern part of the country with near-normal conditions in the Southeast and cooler than normal in West Texas and into the four corner region,” Hoffman predicts.

He says precipitation is much harder to forecast. “I’m not ready to say there will be a wide-spread drought or wet area. There will be pockets. There always are (places) that are dry or wet," Hoffman says. "Overall, we’re OK in the moisture category for most of the growing areas."

However, he’s anticipating a fairly active hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico. “That’s a wild card that we can’t forecast right now. But I do think there could be hurricane hits in the Gulf of Mexico region during the late summer and into the fall,” Hoffman says.

What About La Niña?

Some weather watchers don't expect either El Niño or La Niña to have much of an impact on this year's growing season. 

Ryan Martin is a grain trader and Meteorologist for Hoosier Ag. Today. He says El Niño and La Niña won’t leave much of an impact this year.

“El Niño or La Niña, it’s not a major factor. It’s a buzz-word right now,” says Ryan Martin, a meteorologist with Hoosier AgToday and a grain trader with Louis Dreyfus Commodities.

Martin says the U.S. has experienced a strong El Niño transition to a strong La Niña, but he doesn’t think that is what is happening now.  Right, now the forecast shows a warmer, wetter trend, which is  generally not the sign of a strong La Niña to summer.

“If we do go to La Niña, I actually think it’s going to be a 2017 issue, not a 2016 issue. Why? That’s because we’re still in El Niño right now. Give it three months to ease back. If we go directly to a La Niña, that puts us at August. We’re done with this crop year for all practical purposes,” Martin explains.

Growing Season Weather 

He is anticipating problems in some pockets, though.He’s concerned with the western part of the Corn Belt and Plains producing below trendline yields because of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.

“I would be concerned about Nebraska, and part of the reason is ... lots of rain," Martin says. "The southern half of South Dakota could fall into that (too. ...  If I’m throwing up flags, I’m throwing up yellow for Iowa. Northwest Missouri comes in as well. The warmth there will offset precipitation we see."

But he's predicting above-trend production in Wisconsin and Minnesota. “If you’re looking for a garden spot this year, Minnesota is going to be it,” says Martin.

Martin anticipates near normal precipitation for Indiana. He says the state shouldn’t be too far from trend as long as the crop gets in the ground.

Illinois is the tough one. “Illinois is going to be the interesting state because it could go either way with dryness and warmth, but it’s not the entire state, so it could be interesting,” he explains.

Outside of the Corn Belt, Martin says the Southeast could be a little bit wetter. “I’m not too concerned with the chart temperatures, but the Southeast will be warmer than normal some-what,” says Martin.

Meanwhile, all farmers can do is manage the bottom line and prepare the best they can. “We will weather the storms and deal with whatever Mother Nature hands us,” says Schroeder.

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