Weather Patterns Point To Above Average Crop for 2015

This map indicates the corn growing areas of the United States in relation to drought stricken regions.

Overall, U.S. farmers have had a positive start to the corn, sorghum and barley growing seasons. Weather patterns show favorable conditions throughout the summer and continuing into harvest for most of the country.

El Niño is partially responsible. El Niño is a large-scale, ocean-atmosphere climate interaction. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the phenomenon begins with a periodic warming of sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific and then affects weather across the United States.

A typical El Niño summer includes hot, dry conditions for the western regions of the United States but higher rainfall and cooler temperatures in the Great Plains and much of the Midwest. El Niño is not the only factor affecting current weather patterns, but is a major contributor.

“Market traders have the attitude that El Niño decreases the possibility of the most harmful weather to a crop, specifically higher temperatures and drought. We can look forward to a good crop year, and anticipate a price depressing force, as market trends have shown since late 2013,” said Christopher Hurt, Ph.D., a professor at Purdue University.

Much of the Midwestern Corn Belt has already seen above average rainfall, as have other parts of the country, with the exception of the West Coast.

According to the USDA’s Drought Monitor report reflecting data through June 23, only 2 percent of corn production is in areas experiencing drought.

In early June, USDA crop ratings showed the 2015 crop in the 80th percentile for yields between the years 2000 and 2015; however those estimates are expected to change if growing regions receive excessive rainfall. The coming weeks will heavily influence the final crop ratings. “The next six to seven weeks will be critical for corn farmers,” Hurt said. “Weather is the most important factor for the reproduction and grain fill stages of the growing season.”

The Southern Plains region, specifically Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, have experienced above average rainfall, which delayed sorghum planting. In Kansas, the leading sorghum-producing state, planting was nearly two weeks behind schedule going into the month of June; however, 90 percent of the crop was planted by the end of the month.

Hurt also said to expect more sorghum planted in 2015 than previous years. Premiums have increased for sorghum growers. Additionally, China has increased its demand for sorghum during the past year and other buyers are also interested in the grain.

While the El Niño pattern looks good for a majority of the United States, the western region of the country is experiencing an extreme drought. Farmers planted barley ahead of schedule in the Northwest, where most of the crop is grown.

“Overall, the 2015 crop year is off to a good start, and the odds favor above trend yields. But there is always a reservation so early in the season,” Hurt said.