It’s officially here, and most meteorologists expect El Niño to hang around until at least early 2016. That has farmers wanting to know how this weather phenomenon might affect their crops. Jerry Lehnertz, vice president of lending at AgriBank Farm Credit Bank asserts that it’s extremely difficult to predict the exact impact, although “past performances” can lead to some pretty solid educational guesses.
And largely, past performances of crop yields during El Niño give reason to be encouraged,” he says.
“Our analysis of historical records indicates that, with a few exceptions, El Niño is strongly correlated with positive yields for both corn and soybean crops,” he says.
In particular, when El Niño conditions are present, the U.S. can generally expect:
- Warmer-than average temperatures in the western and northern U.S.
- Wetter-than-average conditions in parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida.
- Drier-than-average conditions in the Ohio Valley and Pacific Northwest.
“History shows that it’s uncommon to have subpar national crop production results for corn in soybeans except in the few cases where very hot, dry weather occurs during the critical crop development phase in June and July,” Lehnertz says. “If predictions are correct, this could signal higher-than-expected corn and soybean yields this year.”
Farmers should adjust marketing and operations plans based on short- and long-range weather forecasts, Lehnertz says. Also, ensure you have appropriate risk-management tools in place to guard against potentially extreme weather, he says.
Christopher Narayanan, head of agricultural commodities research at Societe Generale in New York, told AgWeb in May that if El Niño delivers bigger crops, that will inevitably push down prices.
“Corn yields are usually improved in an El Niño, and prices tend to drop for the first few months only to recover slightly, then drop dramatically into harvest and then eventually recovering seasonally,” he says.
According to the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, El Niño’s effects are often strongest globally from September to November, causing much drier-than-usual weather in large portions of India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and South America (including Brazil). Cotton and wheat often see a small price bounce if some of these overseas competitors struggle with their crops, Narayanan says.
For a look at how the fall and winter seasons could shape up under El Niño conditions, click here.
For all of AgWeb’s weather coverage, plus local conditions and a dozen maps measuring soil moisture, growing degree days, seasonal rainfall and much more, visit www.agweb.com/weather.