Drought Risk Threatens Crops

by | Apr 15, 2013

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The plains and the western US are still in the worst drought in more than 50 years, but this year’s corn, soybean and wheat harvest will be better than the summer of 2012, Reuters reports.

A senior agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services told a weather conference in Chicago the winter snow and early spring rains have improved moisture in the US crop belt’s top soil, but moisture is still lacking in the subsoil, according to the news agency.

The weather company predicts a warm summer for the central and eastern US, but not as dry as last year, Reuters reports.

MDA Weather Services is forecasting this year’s corn yields at 154 bushels per acre and soybean yields at 43 bushels, according to Reuters. Last year’s corn harvest averaged 147.2 bushels per acre; in 2010 the yield per acre was 152.8. The 2012 soybean yield was 41.9 bushels, compared to 43.5 bushels per acre two years ago, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Some farmers and contractors in California will see their water supply cut this year because of an unusually dry winter.

Following a wet start to the water year in November and December 2012, the January to March period was tracking to be California’s driest on record, the US Department of the Interior said late last month.

A NOAA Drought Task Force report released last week said last year’s drought wasn’t caused by human-induced climate change but rather natural variations in weather.

The study finds that two key meteorological processes that bring rain were largely absent in the plains last year. First, low pressure systems that normally produce widespread rains in May and June did not occur, as storm tracks produced by these systems were shunted northwards into Canada. Also, July and August thunderstorms, which are typically abundant in the region and deliver the majority of precipitation for the year, were infrequent and produced little rain.

Also last week, Nike, Starbucks, Ikea and 30 other companies signed a statement urging federal policymakers to take action on climate change by promoting clean energy, boosting efficiency and limiting carbon emissions.


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