Iowa has had one of the snowiest winters on record this year. Iowa State University Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor points out that once it all melts, spring field work and planting will likely be put on hold.
"This snow and ice will have to melt and the ground is already saturated," notes Taylor. "Plus, our pattern of once a week storms is still in place. So we can still get more precipitation as we move along here in March and into April. Those spring storms can set back farmers' planting operations.
"Based on past patterns in springs like this, planting seems to be delayed about a week for every inch of rain we get - after the ground is already filled to capacity with soil moisture like it is now," says Taylor. "Field work in Iowa usually starts in early April and corn planting starts around April 20 or so. By May 10 in Iowa, most corn has to get into the ground without incurring a yield penalty."
Weather forecast for 2008 crop season
As of January, we have been officially in the midst of a La Nina weather pattern. Taylor points out that the La Nina pattern generally favors drought in the U.S. Corn Belt. It's just the opposite of when an El Nino weather phase occurs.
The La Nina boosts the likelihood of drought this summer to one chance out of three - if the La Nina remains in place. But Taylor also notes that the steep rise in the La Nina that has occurred in the past two months could mean that the current La Nina could fade away just as quickly.
Thus, the risk of dry weather or drought occurring during the 2008 crop growing season will increase if the La Nina persists into May, he says. Meanwhile, most of the Corn Belt is coming out of winter with good to excess reserves of subsoil moisture. That means crop prospects should get off to a good start, provided you can get your corn and beans planted in good time. However, even with a full tank of soil moisture going into spring, farmers will still need to get timely rains during the growing season to produce good yields, he adds.