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Yields should be better than 2012, but below trend line, Taylor says

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 03/28/2013 9:01 PM

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WESLEY, Iowa —Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor says the 2013 corn crop will be better than 2012's, but not up to the national trend-line yield of 161 bushels.

Taylor predicts a 2013 national average yield of 147 bushels per acre with a $5.50 December contract price at harvest.

"The market seems to be agreeing with me, " said Taylor who spoke at last week's Northern Research Farm annual meeting in the Wesley Community Center. Taylor, who is recovering from a broken leg, gave his talk from a wheel chair.

Remnants of the 2012 La Nina, the second strongest in history, are likely to remain, Taylor said. With a La Nina there is a 70 percent chance of less than trend line yield while El Nino brings a 70 percent chance of a better than trend-line yield.

The El Nino/Southern Oscillation, used to track La Nina/El Nino weather events, has been trending neutral, but in recent days signs exist that ocean temperatures may be warming, which is an indication of El Nino, Taylor said. The next El Nino/La Nina update will be around April 15. If El Nino is occurring, it will take several months before it impacts Midwest weather.

"If we go back to El Nino in the next six weeks, there is a 70 percent chance of a 168 bushel yield and corn prices will drop into the $4 range," Taylor said. "There is a chance of El Nino, but not a probability. It's more likely that it will remain neutral with the remnants of La Nina bringing dry conditions from the western Midwest to the Rocky Mountains."

Much of the Midwest heads into spring with less than full recharge of soil moisture, Taylor said.

Short-term drought indicators show some relief — especially in eastern Iowa — but long-term drought that affects the recharge of rivers, lakes and wells continues.

About 10 percent of farmers west of Interstate-35 that Taylor has talked to this winter say that they've seen tile lines running. That's down from 80 percent two years ago.

Precipitation coming to Iowa and Minnesota the last three weeks as a result of a high pressure ridge in the Gulf of Alaska is not likely to continue, Taylor said. A low pressure may be moving into the Gulf, and if it stays for five days, it will remain for at least six weeks bringing dry conditions to the Midwest.

For an indicator of what planting weather will be like in Iowa, Taylor said to look at March weather in Arkansas. While parts of that state have received rain, the overall picture is mixed at this point.