Weather models indicate Iowa is likely to experience favorable conditions for the remainder of the growing season, State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said last week.
The National Weather Service’s outlook for the beginning of August predicts below-normal temperatures and near- to above-normal precipitation for much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
"There’s been a lot of rain recently in Oklahoma and parts of Texas, and with this forecast, they’re going to get even more rain in the areas closest to us," Hillaker said at the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit in Ames. "Basically what we’re doing is putting a big buffer between us and what had been a very severe drought, and it’s just going to make it that much harder for it to turn really dry later on in the summer, unlike the last couple of years."
The anticipated onset of an El Nino weather event also bodes well for Iowa crops, generally bringing cooler weather and more rainfall to the state during the summer, he said.
"It’s not officially an El Nino event yet, but it sure looks like it will be," he said. "El Nino is generally our friend. If we could choose a weather pattern, this is the one we would choose. We tend to have cooler summers, warmer winters, adequate rainfall, at least here in Iowa."
The favorable forecast, combined with good crop conditions reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), supports predictions of good crop yields. Last week’s USDA crop progress report rated 76 percent of the U.S. corn crop in good to excellent condition, its highest level for this point in the season since 2004.
In Iowa, 77 percent of the corn crop and 74 percent of the soybean crop was reported in good to excellent condition.
"At this point in the season, those ratings generally correlate reasonably well into yield," Hillaker said.
One cautionary note is that while El Nino is favorable for the summer growing season, it could bring along some harvest challenges for Iowa farmers, Hillaker pointed out.
"For the fall season historically in Iowa, about two-thirds of the time it’s been cooler than normal during the years El Nino is beginning, and about two-thirds of the time it’s been wetter than normal as well," he said. "So it could be a more difficult harvest season (with) perhaps more crop drying being necessary. The last time we had an El Nino event, we had a pretty nasty October."