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Drought worry grows as weather patterns develop
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Drought worry grows as weather patterns develop

Sun in corn

If you didn’t like the weather during last year’s cropping season, chances are you aren’t going to like it this year.

Similar weather patterns in the Midwest are likely to return with more dryness where it was dry and wet weather where it was wet last year, Bryce Anderson, DTN senior ag meteorologist, told attendees at the virtual Community Classic March 3.

Fields west of the Mississippi will likely be hot and dry this summer, while southern Illinois will likely be wet at planting time again this year.

Again, weather patterns show the potential for severe storms, possibly high winds and hail, Anderson said.

Last year, along with the lack of rain, temperatures across most of the Midwest were 1 to 6 degrees higher than average. Then the derecho blasted across the Midwest on Aug. 10 with 100 mph winds in parts of central and eastern Iowa.

All those weather conditions combined with strong grain exports set the stage for the USDA report last fall that sent corn and soybean prices rapidly upwards, Anderson said. Several market analysts at Commodity Classic said these kinds of prices are likely to stay a couple of years with some bouts of volatility.

Anderson’s forecast was similar to the market forecast with a second year of drought in certain areas and widespread volatile weather.

Dryness will likely return to western Iowa and the Central Plains, he said. Rainfall potential in the eastern one-third of the Corn Belt — in parts of Illinois, Indiana Ohio and Michigan — could make for a wetter planting season.

Northern Iowa and parts of the Northern Plains can also expect wetter fields around planting time, the meteorologist said.

Central Illinois has a dry area from Decatur northeast, Anderson said. That area will have some moisture deficits, but not as challenging as western Iowa.

Southern Illinois, near Cairo in the Little Egypt area, will be wetter.

“That’s one of the areas I’m most concerned about,” he said of an area that includes parts of Indiana and Ohio, where too much rain may be an issue.

During soybean pod fill, corn tasseling, pollination and kernel fill, above-normal temperatures are expected in the interior U.S. during a drier trend, he said. Irrigation will be “in action” in the 2021 growing season, he said, adding it is a year to hedge on a lower availability of moisture during the growing season.

Weather patterns are comparable to 2011, a year which brought severe weather including the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, he said.

During the question period, one farmer wanted to know how to adjust his seeding rate for the anticipated dry weather.

“It’s a year to talk to your seed salesman. It’s not a year to use typical practices,” said Anderson’s colleague Greg Horstmeier, DTN digital editor in chief, who facilitated the discussion.“It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it routine year.”

As another complicating factor, Anderson said it will likely be a tough year for spraying, with windy weather when farmers may want to apply herbicides.

On a positive note, the warmer, drier weather in some areas may allow early planting in parts of the Midwest.

“A late freeze is not as likely this year,” Anderson said.

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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.

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