What’s up with El Nino?

What’s up with El Nino?  Short answer is still not too much.  The monthly El Nino summary has been posted today at the Climate Prediction Center (see link below). The basic message is that reaching El Nino conditions is still likely (now 58%) lower than last month. Conditions in the Pacific are still not coming together well in the coupling between ocean and atmosphere. Sea surface temperatures are relatively warm.

The long range outlooks still are based on El Nino conditions occurring (updates will come out in 2 weeks). But the weak El Nino would allow other variables to impact what happens this winter including changes in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and over the pole.

End result is that some things that look like El Nino are still likely to happen during the winter.  But the confidence of being a very warm winter in the northern US is somewhat less.  The likelihood is lower because of the reduced El Nino chances.  And even if El Nino does occur, weak El Ninos have less overall influence and can more easily be modified by other conditions.

See the full outlook from the Climate Prediction Center:



    There’s still time to collect samples for the cornstalk nitrate nitrogen test

    Fall is the time to evaluate corn nitrogen use efficiency by using the end-of-season cornstalk nitrate test. The test measures nitrate-nitrogen left in the corn plant following maturity.

    According to the most recent USDA Crop Progress report released on October 27 just 46% of the nation’s corn was harvested so there is still time to collect samples for analysis.  Ideally samples should be collected 1 to 3 weeks after maturity (black layer), however, over the course of 15 years of utilizing the test I have collected samples up to, and immediately after harvest. Post harvest samples can be collected if the corn header is raised high enough to allow an 8-inch stalk segment to be collected starting 6 inches above the ground. If using a head with shredders samples will need to be collected before harvest. Don’t allow stalks that have been harvested to get rained on before collection or nitrates will start washing out of the stalks.

    The video provides a demonstration of sample collection and preparation in order to send to a lab for analysis.


      Resilient Ag Conference Videos Now Available

      Farmer_Panel_2014In August, over 200 Corn-belt farmers, crop advisors and scientists gathered in Ames, Iowa, to discuss climate uncertainty, impacts on agriculture and what can be done to make the agricultural landscape environmentally healthy and productive. Presentations included the most recent findings by scientists, from 10 land-grant universities and an agricultural research station, who are part of a USDA-supported Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project, led by Lois Wright Morton, sociology professor at Iowa State. Videos of the conference sessions, including the farmer panel session and remarks by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; speaker PowerPoints; posters; Resilient Agriculture Magazine; and other conference handouts are now available for viewing/downloading at www.sustainablecorn.org.


        NWS Outlook – Wet October for Northern Corn Belt

        Much of the northern Corn Belt has an increased chance of above-average precipitation in October, according to the NWS Climate Prediction Center. This follows on the heels of above-average precipitation over the last 30 days across the Corn Belt.

        In the map below, areas shaded in green have an increased chance of above-average precipitation in October and include the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, northern Illinois, and northeast Missouri.


        Continue reading


          Corn belt heat into early September

          The main part of the Corn belt is going to get some help with heat over the next couple weeks while the northern and western corn belt will hold steady or lose ground compared to average on GDD accumulation.

          The 8-14 day outlooks have been consistent over the last few days holding in a ridge of the main part of the corn belt.  This situation will allow above average temperatures during this period.  The additional heat will be very beneficial for the development of corn, which has been lagging a little through the season in certain places.  See the 8-14 day outlook:


          Northern areas of the Corn belt have been running further behind development throughout the year and have acres that are at risk of not reaching maturity or being harvested at very high moisture content based on the freeze date and additional heat through the rest of the season.

          If you wish to check where you corn crop sits with current development check out this tool from the USDA – AFRI funded U2U group:


          This tool allows you to check development based on your location, planting date and variety.  Updated daily it gives you the chance to check conditions anywhere in the corn belt.

          The most recent outlook will not help with the slower development across the northwestern corn belt.  This area will need to have a longer period this fall to reach maturity and dry down.



            The Drought Impact Reporter

            By Michelle Proctor, Senior Information Specialist, and Pat Guinan, Extension/State Climatologist, University of Missouri

            Pat Guinan, University of Missouri Extension climatologist with the Commercial Agriculture Program, encourages people to use the Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) as a way to inform decision makers of drought related impacts experienced across their state. The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in Lincoln, Nebraska has rolled out newer versions of the online tool over the past few years.

            “By contributing information via http://droughtreporter.unl.edu/, we can provide additional impact reports to the Drought Monitor authors, who will then use the information in their weekly drought depiction process,” said Guinan. Continue reading


              Cool Temperatures and Corn Yield

              The most recent Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin on Wednesday 23 July included the following image on corn conditions across the Corn Belt.  Note that since 1995 only one other year has had a higher overall corn condition rating at this point in the growing season – 2004.

              corn condition july 2014

              Source:  Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin: http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/pubs/Weekly/Wwcb/wwcb.pdf

              This image clearly shows the impact of the overall cooler temperatures this summer. While the cool weather has been attracting some media attention for the lack of mid-summer heat, for the most part the cool has been very good for crop conditions over the bulk of the Corn Belt.  Where moisture is not limited the crop has been able to grow well.  Where moisture has been limited the reduced atmospheric demands of the cooler temperatures has reduced potential stress and allowed much of the corn crop to pass through tasseling with limited stress.  Note that 2004 – the then-record yield – was also a very cool summer.

              Even when conditions have warmed, they have been short-lived and often accompanied by high dew points, additionally reducing the atmospheric demand on crops.

              The next question becomes – can we put on enough GDDs to get the crop to reach maturity in time?  The current 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks stay cool.  The previous blog post by Jim Angel talked about the outlook for the rest of the growing season.


                NOAA Seasonal Outlooks – A Cool Finish To The Corn Crop?

                On July 17, 2014, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center released their outlook for August and beyond.

                Currently, we have significant heat through the High Plains and the Midwest. But it will be short-lived. The NWS forecast show cooler conditions returning soon to the region. The outlook for August (first map, click to enlarge) includes an increased chance of below-average temperatures across the upper Midwest, while the Southeast has as increased chance of above-average temperatures. Much of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio have equal chances (EC) of above, below, and near-average temperature.

                Much of the Corn Belt has equal chances (EC) of above, below, and near-average precipitation (second map) in August. In other words, there are no clear indications of an increased risk for too much or too little rain.


                Continue reading


                  Trying for a more resilient farming

                  Dick Sloan evaluates corn no-tilled planted into cover crop mix of winter wheat, cereal rye and hairy vetch.

                  Dick Sloan evaluates corn no-tilled planted into cover crop mix of winter wheat, cereal rye and hairy vetch.

                   The following post was written by Charles Wittman, a communication specialist for the ISU Extension Watershed Projects in northeast Iowa following a recent field day at the farm of Richard (Dick) Sloan near Rowley, IA.  Dick is a member of the Sustainable Corn Project’s advisory board, chairman of the Lime Creek Watershed Council and a Practical Farmers of Iowa Outreach Leader


                  Dick Sloan provided a glimpse into his evolution as a conservationist farmer along with an update of his no-till and cover crop farming practices at a June 19 Lime Creek field day.

                  “(I am) trying for a more resilient farming,” he told the 66 attending the Practical Farmers of Iowa sponsored event.  Unfortunately, heavy rain (nearly 2 inches) and cracks of thunder kept the crowd inside the machine shed, preventing most from getting a close-up view of the practices. Continue reading


                    Climate Camp 2014

                    amandahooverThe following post is by guest blogger Amanda Hoover.  Amanda is an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Continental Local Schools in Continental, Ohio. She is a graduate of South Dakota State University, one of the 10 partner institutions involved in the Sustainable Corn Project.  You can follow Amanda on Twitter: twitter.com/MsAHoover. To learn more about how our Education team is training the next generation of scientists, developing science education curricula and promoting learning opportunities for high school teachers and students through this USDA-NIFA funded project click here.

                    For many kids, summertime means camp time. During June 2014, this was true for some of their teachers, too! Twenty science and agriculture teachers, including myself, met on the campus of Iowa State University campus for Climate Camp.

                    Sponsored by the Sustainable Corn Project, the camp was a great opportunity for teachers, climate experts, and sustainable agriculture experts to network and learn from one another.  One of my favorite things about being an agriculture teacher is the ‘family’ atmosphere within the profession. I love attending events to not only meet other Ag teachers, but also to learn from them. Having the chance to interact with science teachers, and helping them understand the vast connections between science and agriculture, and how they can incorporate ag into their curricula, was an added bonus! Continue reading