Drought was reported in each of the world’s key grain production areas at one time or another over the past year. Argentina, Brazil, Australia, China, India, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Europe and the parts of both Russia and Ukraine each had at least a short-term bout of dryness that threatened crops. Many of those threats actually ended up reducing production for wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and other grain and oilseed crops.
Impact of dryness wanes
Slowly, in the past few weeks, dryness has been reduced and in many cases eliminated. The most recent list of countries dealing with notable dryness include: Australia, south-central Russia, south-central Canada and the northern U.S. Plains. However, in nearly all of these cases the dryness is no longer having much impact on crops because of either plant dormancy or the harvest season.
Australia’s damaged wheat crop will be all harvested in the next few weeks. Russia’s drought will be hidden under snow and behind the cold pattern of the next few weeks and months. The same can be said of dryness in the northern U.S. Plains and Canada’s Prairies. That buys each of these drier biased areas an opportunity for improved weather and soil conditions in the next few weeks and months before weather becomes a critical factor once again in the spring.
Absence of clear signals prevails
The latest forecast indices that help predict weather trends and biases are all running rather benign right now. Not many clear signals for change or for status quo conditions have been identified. Quite often when this is the situation world weather tends to be “average.” An occasional large storm system will be possible periodically followed by periods of quiet weather. The end result should be a sufficient mix of weather to support crops for this time of year.
The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), a tool used to predict and assess El Niño and La Niña conditions has been in a neutral mode for the past couple of months. In the past when the SOI has been in this mode weather conditions around the world have trended relatively close to normal.
The SOI predictor has suggested that the North China Plain and Indian winter crop areas will see near to above average precipitation and if that proves correct there would be some very high yield potentials this summer. SOI correlations also are offering relatively normal weather to South Africa maize production areas while Brazil and Argentina see a favorable mix of weather.
Europe usually experiences a near to above average precipitation bias and with the help from the North Atlantic Oscillation, Europe’s greatest precipitation is liable to be in southern parts of the continent. Some of the moisture in Europe also is expected to reach into the western Commonwealth of Independent States suggesting Ukraine and Russia weather will be favorable for crops moving into dormancy.
North Africa is another winter wheat production area that is liable to see normal weather in the month of November and possibly early December to support wheat planting and establishment. In the United States, the bias will be for below-average precipitation in the Plains and western Corn Belt, as well as the Pacific Northwest. The southeastern U.S. also will experience drier than usual conditions while the Midwest sees additional bouts of rain along with the southernmost Great Plains.
World Weather, Inc. believes each of the above weather patterns will dominate the next 30 to 45 days and that will translate into mostly favorable crop conditions with the exception of winter wheat in Canada’s Prairies, the northern U.S. Plains and south-central Russia where dryness will remain in the soil and become a factor to spring crop development potential.
U.S. drought to prevail into spring
In the United States, weather this winter likely will be active enough to lift topsoil moisture in many areas, but the deep drought that remains under way across the Great Plains, western Midwest and portions of the Rocky Mountain region will remain in place until spring when there is likely to be greater rainfall in at least a part of the region.
The winter outlook will include colder than usual temperatures in the eastern United States, as well as the central and northern portions of California and most of Nevada. Warmer biased conditions this winter will occur in the Pacific Northwest and a part of the southwestern Plains.
The U.S. precipitation outlook will be near to above average in southern and eastern portions of the United States, while the upper Midwest northern Plains and Pacific Northwest will see near to below average precipitation.
The only concern for the United States will be the ongoing dryness left over from this year’s severe drought. As noted above, there is a good chance that some of the drought area will be further relieved in the spring when weather patterns become active again, but most forecasters still are anticipating a drier bias in the central and northern Plains that will linger into the growing season raising some further concern about winter wheat in the central Plains and spring wheat in the northern Plains.
Russia drought to linger until spring, too
Drought in Russia has been around for three years, although the drought lately is only a very small portion of that which occurred in 2010. Nevertheless, drought already has left some of Russia’s wheat and rye production area unplanted and facing reduced production once again. Weather this winter may be more normal-like, but the drought’s fate, like that in the United States, largely will be determined by spring 2013 weather rather than by weather over the next few weeks.