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, 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

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

Is there an advantage to early soybean planting?

Selecting an early versus late planting date could have implications for water availability and plant stress throughout the growing season. U2U team members Tapan Pathak and Roger Elmore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln looked at the potential advantage of early soybean planting from a climatology perspective. Read all about their findings in Nebraska Crop Watch.

Suggestions for Young Farmers?

This spring I had the pleasure of interviewing a diverse group of established cash crop farmers for a Sustainable Corn Project video. These farmers strongly recommended purchasing crop insurance. Farmers run the risk of losing a large amount of money in just one or two growing seasons, but crop insurance will help cover this potential loss. These farmers also emphasized stewardship: taking good care of the soil for profitability, for sustainability, and for future generations who will farm that soil. Some of these farmers also suggested that young farmers consider farm management practices that build crop resiliency to minimize the potential impacts of extreme weather.

What advice would YOU give to young farmers? What would you tell a young person who wants to go into farming in the future? (Click on the “conversation bubble” above or leave a comment below to share a suggestion.)

Waiting for Spring

This winter has been significantly colder than average across the Corn Belt. The December-February temperatures were 9 to 12 degrees below average across Minnesota, Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, and northern Illinois. The rest of the Corn Belt was 6 to 9 degrees below average (map below). In addition, snowfall for the winter season was above average in the eastern two-thirds of the Corn Belt and near to slightly below average in the western third.


Temperature departures for the period December 1, 2013 to March 1, 2014 for the central US.  Click to enlarge.

The results of this cold and snowy winter are that we have: 1) a significant snowpack in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and in much of northern Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio (see snow depth map below) and 2) frozen soils across much of the northern two-thirds of the Corn Belt.


Snow depth (inches) as reported on the morning of March 4, 2014.  Click to enlarge.

It will take some time for the snow to melt and the soils to warm up and dry out. The latest forecasts from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center indicate that colder than average conditions will prevail for at least the next two weeks. A slow melt is desirable at this point in order to reduce the risk of flooding on rivers and streams.

Soil moisture was in good shape going into winter in much of the eastern Corn Belt, but was below average in parts of the western Corn Belt. It remains to be seen how much of the snow melt will actually go towards recharging the soil moisture in those areas. It is likely that that the frozen soils will inhibit the recharge in many instances.

While there are concerns of a slow start to the growing season due to the cold weather, circumstances could change rapidly, as they often do in the Midwest. A few weeks of warm weather and sunshine in April could put us back on track.

Maps are courtesy of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, Illinois State Water Survey and the University of Illinois.

Spring/summer outlook and El Nino

The January long range outlooks were released two weeks ago.  The main themes are continued similar overall pattern is expected into February and possibly into spring.  Colder conditions are more likely in the northern plains with no strong indications on precipitation except for some increased chances in the Ohio Valley.

The more interesting feature in the outlooks is not mentioned in the outlooks directly.  Recent forecasts for El Nino have been showing Continue reading

Missouri 2013 Growing Season Climate Summary

The 2013 growing season was dominated by anomalous weather conditions for much of the spring and summer, and made it another challenging year for Missouri farmers. Agricultural conditions only began to improve toward the end of the growing season with favorable harvesting opportunities, and some rain that initiated forage growth. Drought, however, was still impacting the northern half of state during October, and despite a widespread significant rain event at the end of the month, more rain was needed to recharge water supplies above and below the ground. The most notable anomaly for this year’s growing season in Missouri was incredible precipitation disparities that occurred – from historic flooding in southern sections to severe drought in the north. Continue reading

Fall Crop Harvest Weather, Progress and Impacts

What was possibly going to be a late harvest season with the late planting and cooler mid-summer temperatures has moved ahead quicker than expected.  Late season warmth and dryness pushed crops progress along and also pushed many to premature maturity because of a lack of moisture accompanying the heat in the late summer.  Thus, crops that were expected to stay green well into the fall have not.  A warm and relatively dry September also aided that situation.  Continue reading

Late Season Warmth and Dryness

Much of the Cornbelt experienced conditions warmer and drier than average in recent weeks. Temperatures for the first 25 days of September have been above average in the western two-thirds of the region with the departures becoming stronger moving from east to west. Meanwhile, much of Ohio and Indiana as well as parts of Illinois and Wisconsin have been close to average. After planting delays this spring and the cooler than average conditions that prevailed through mid-August, this late season warmth gave corn an opportunity to at least partially catch up in its development. In addition, it has served as an aid in drydown in those fields that have already reached maturity.

Based on the September 24, 2013, US Drought Monitor, the US Department of Agriculture estimates that 54 percent of the US corn production is in some stage of drought. At this late stage of the growing season, additional precipitation will have little impacts on yields. In fact, any significant precipitation at this point is more likely to be a hindrance as the harvest continues.



Click to enlarge. Map courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture

Drought issues returning


The most recent US Drought Monitor map shows drought returning to larger parts of the Corn Belt in the last few weeks. This has been driven by warm temperatures over the last part of August. Dryness has existed across parts of IA, MN and SD over the middle part of the summer. But cool temperatures during that same period had reduced the stress on crops. With the return of warm temperatures in the latter part of August, the dry areas began showing stress quickly.

Areas of Iowa and Missouri have degraded to D2-Severe Drought with surrounding areas of SD, MN, and IA with D1 – Moderate Drought.

In some ways the heat in the latter part of August was welcomed in pushing crops along to development. But the extended period of heat without moisture is stressing crops, pushing some to early maturity and browning.

Large parts of the central part of the corn belt are watching for freezing conditions because of the late development. We will post more about that as information becomes available.