Sunday, March 15, 2009

El Nino

Farmers have come to know El Nino and La Nina since the 70's when droughts and floods were attached to oscillation extremes.

The question this year is how much will the El Nino cycle we are in die down by planting time?

Dr. Elwynn Taylor is an Alabama farm boy who made climatology and weather his profession. He has become a popular speaker on the farm speaking circuit because of his knowledge of studies and easy, down-home way of explaining it.

He recently spoke to a group of land owners in Illinois where my friend Paul Butler attended. Paul is a good note-taker and his rendition sounds like the one I heard Dr. Taylor give in Ada at the CCTC in February.

"He said La Nina is weakening, but that it could turn around-coin flip. April 15 is a key date. If we can get SOI down under .8 by April 15 we could be looking at a good year, if not then odds of a below trend are more likely. Harder to change patterns if it is not showing it by then.

Taylor is still standing by the 20 year drought cycle. He said if we don’t get a drought in the next 3 years (end of 2012) it would break an 800 year old record.(And I wouldn't be surprised either way!)

He said droughts In Illinois come from the East back. Don’t get concerned about Texas impacting us. Dry in Texas much more meaningful for those West of I-35. He always has some funny comments. Someone asked if droughts ever move from the East back across I-35 or from the West across 35. He said “Definitely yes, usually about 100 yards”. He went on to explain that is why there are so many large cities built on that line.

Dr. Taylor had an interesting segment I had never heard. That farmers make money on Variations-not on increased yield or prices. When yields or prices go up so does land cost and inputs. When the farmer makes money is when things spike quickly-such as having grain left to sell when the drought hits. Selling more ahead of good conditions before the inevitable drop in prices.

He did say there is an 80% correlation between Arkansas spring weather in March and Illinois weather in April. In other words if they have a dry spring there is better than coin flip chance we will as well. They have been dry so far but got hammered last 2 days."

It is awfully dry here, I could plant today but the calendar says NO. I have planted in March and one of the best crops was corn and sweet corn planted March 28 on in 1999. I hope it is not that kind of year. That is among the worst soybeans I ever raised when Monsanto got me to try a bunch of new RR genetics. They didn't like the drought and made 20-25 bushels.

I just heard a brush fire truck go out again, I have seen several the past month. It is that dry here. The residue is tinder dry. One errant cigarette and watch out! The whole country side will be on fire in minutes.

There has been a lot of barn fires and some vacant house fires, too. Not many but more than usual.

I don't know how this year will turn out but I just pray for God's Will and do my best with what I have.

I am sure someone in Illinois or Iowa will wish for a bit of the rain they got last year for this year. I hope it isn't us, it was dry enough here but the crops turned out pretty well considering the limited rainfall.

Farmers don't like it when it takes a catastrophe to raise market prices but it often does. That looks like one of the few price hopes for this year.

Ed Winkle

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