Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Friday 08/29/14

Chilly And Wet Fall Ahead

There are two main issues to look at when we think about the fall season of 2014. The first is an early freeze, due to lagging crop development in some areas of the northern Corn Belt.

(Courtesy Midwestern Regional Climate Center)

As we approach the September 1 time frame, there is a fairly high probability for an early freeze to affect the finishing crop in North Dakota. We favor such an occurrence before September 20, based on forecast model presentations. That region looks to be cooler than normal for September, and due to that trend, there is a better than even chance that by mid-September a push southward of polar-origin air may be strong enough to bring at least some 30-32 degree readings down through a good portion of North Dakota. This occurrence would be generally a week earlier than the 30-year average first freeze date as noted in the map below.

In other areas of the northern Corn Belt, we look for average first-freeze dates. However, even an average first occurrence of 32 degree Fahrenheit temperatures may still be too early in areas where development may be lagging. Progress reports do show crop stages ahead of their pace of 2013, which may limit the at-risk issue.

The second primary fall weather hurdle is the overall pattern--and it presents itself as a wet one for the Midwest.

The northern Plains and northern Midwest have below-normal temperatures forecast. This bolsters the idea of not only a freeze threat, but also problems in dry-down for harvest. Other areas of the Corn Belt have milder temperatures. On the other hand, precipitation may be an issue throughout the season in most areas.

Harvest this season, at least in the first portion, will be a slow affair with some drying issues. There will be at least some resemblance to the very-slow harvest of 2009, five years ago. While this season will not be nearly as drawn-out as that year was, higher moisture levels and slower progress than we would like are going to be more prominent this year.


Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 3:36PM CDT 08/29/14 by Bryce Anderson

Thursday 08/28/14

Canada Harvest Ramps Up Under Favorable Conditions

As we move from late summer to the beginning of fall across Western Canada, the weather is mostly cooperating with farmers. After a period of warm, drier weather from late July through mid-August helped crops catch up, then many areas from Saskatchewan to Manitoba received a healthy dose of rain during the past weekend as a burst of cool weather pushed through the region.

Any soils that were starting to become too dry were put back into the adequate category for much of the central and eastern Prairies. Some dry soils still exist across western and northwestern portions of Alberta. Temperatures turned lower during last weekend as a push of polar air sent readings to below-normal levels in most areas with even a little bit of patchy frost from eastern Alberta to west-central Saskatchewan. It appears that there wasn't significant frost damage.

The normal dates for first frosts are only a week or two away for the northern half of the Prairies with southern areas usually staying away from a killing frost until the third week of September during a normal year. Normal does not usually happen in weather and given that the upper air pattern is likely to feature a mean trough across Western Canada during the next couple of weeks we will have to keep an eye out for potential frosts or freezes.

Swathing and combining operations are increasing across the region. With better weather expected during the next week or so, the harvest of mature crops will increase substantially. We are likely to see a bump or two in the road as a couple of cold fronts push across the region bringing a short period of showers to western areas Saturday and eastern areas Sunday. Another period of showers may push through the region toward the end of next week. This precipitation will benefit late-maturing crops.

The temperature pattern is expected to remain on the cool side of normal once we reach later this weekend into next week, but for now the origin of the air is coming more from the Pacific than northwest Canada, so any threat of a season-ending frost or freeze appears low. A few spots of light frost can't be ruled out for northern areas by the middle of next week.

Longer-range model products continue on the idea of lower-than-normal temperatures persisting for much of September across the Canadian Prairies with eastern areas of Saskatchewan and Manitoba bearing the brunt of the chill. Given the persistent nature of model forecasts leaning toward a cool outlook next month we see an increased threat of an earlier-than-normal frost or freeze across the region that could affect some of the later-maturing crops.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 11:49AM CDT 08/28/14 by Doug Webster

Monday 08/25/14

Where Have the 90-Degree Days Gone?

Those of us who wait all winter for those lazy, hazy, hot days of summer have been disappointed this summer as the typical periods of hot, humid weather we normally see across a large portion of the central and eastern U.S. have been hard to find. Absent has been the subtropical ridge which we rely on to allow heat to build under the upper level dome of warm air.

Numerous recording sites from the Plains through the Midwest and into the East all are reporting very low numbers of 90-degree afternoon high temperatures so far this summer. In some cases the 90-degree mark has not been reached and time is starting to run out as summer fades into meteorological fall in just a week.

Hot weather has made an appearance across many portions of the central and southern Midwest and Plains during recent days but for many areas this is the first such "hot spell" of the summer and is not really anything to write home about. This burst of summer temperatures does not look like it will have staying power as some polar air gets back into the mix later this week across the northern half of the central and eastern U.S.

The reasons behind the cool summer are pretty much the same as the reason we saw the cold winter and spring. High latitude blocking has been a persistent feature across North America and through the Greenland region through most of the summer. Only during the past 5 days have we seen this blocking relax enough to allow the subtropical ridge to grow northward into the south-central U.S.

The Bermuda high has also been on vacation this summer and has tended to stay across the central Atlantic rather than poking west into the East Coast of the U.S. as it does many times during a normal summer. The lack of this "heat pump" has kept places like Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. with very few 90-degree afternoons.

More often than not we have seen polar air masses make their way southward into the Midwest and East bringing cooler, drier air. Some of these fronts have even made their way all the way into the southern U.S. bringing cooling to even our most southern states.

The Southwest has also seen "cool" weather during the past month with temperatures averaging as much as 2 to 4 degrees below normal so far during August. Phoenix, Arizona has seen 9 days during August when temperatures have failed to reach the century mark. Normal high temperatures are a few degrees over the 100-degree mark.

Current model products are telling us that summer may try to make a modest attempt to continue into early September with the mostly missing subtropical ridge expected to be more of a player in our weather across the central and eastern U.S. This might mean a few places may add a few more hot days into the tally before summer finally does fade away.

Doug Webster can be reached at

Posted at 11:46AM CDT 08/25/14 by Doug Webster
Comments (6)
Must be you have not been outside much this week!The cool temps earlier this summer are probably our only saving grace,with very little rain since June.We will be shelling corn and running beans next month.
Posted by Raymond Simpkins at 10:13AM CDT 08/26/14
we are in mi. and no 90 this year , lots of rain and big crops comimg .
Posted by Arlen Meeuwsen at 3:52PM CDT 08/26/14
I just got back from a family vacation in McCall Idaho. I was led to believe the inter mountain west and west coast is where all the heat was positioned this Summer. We took a boat cruise on Payette Lake on Saturday afternoon and it was so cold at 2 pm that the boat crew dug out the blankets to keep as somewhat warm. So no heat out there. So where is it?
Posted by MARK & LEA NOWAK at 4:59PM CDT 08/26/14
What is causing the "High Latitude Blocking" ?
Posted by Darwin blank at 11:19PM CDT 08/26/14
We had a fairly "cool" July for western Kansas standards, but August has made up for that. Most of the month of August has been mid to upper 90's with several 100 degree days mixed in. August 2013 was much cooler than this year. We've also only had very spotty rains. Localized areas have seen several inches in an event and fields within in a few miles getting trace amounts. Thru July we had grand visions of finally seeing a good dryland sorghum crop after numerous years of drought, but that is fading fast. Although we had some rains this summer the High Plains region in general is still very dry in regards to profile moisture. I know I'm hoping for an El Nino to maybe bring some much needed moisture to this region.
Posted by Brad Niehues at 8:54AM CDT 08/27/14
OMG, it is global cooling!!! We better pass some sort of treaty or global agreement to address this situation right now.
Posted by Mr. Brandy at 11:50AM CDT 08/28/14
Frost And Farm Progress Show

I've been away most of the past couple weeks looking around Central Europe. It was a great experience and bolstered by something that hasn't been too prevalent in Germany, Switzerland and Austria this summer--sunshine. There were several comments by our guides on tours we took about how the amount of rain this year had hurt the wheat and hay crops. (This is a point emphasized in DTN market weather videos since July.)

Now, there is a quick gearing-up for the Farm Progress (or should it be "Slog-gress"?) Show in Boone, Iowa Tuesday through Thursday this week. For the second time in the past 3 shows in Boone, rain is an issue. The show at the Iowa site was crippled by heavy rain in 2010--had a dry weather event in 2012 during the drought year--and got hammered by heavy rain last week during exhibit set-up, with more rain forecast for this week's event days. Darin Newsom and I do plan to discuss the primary market and weather topics of the day each of the three days of the show and we hope to see you if you are at the show. Our program times are 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM.

I'll post a separate blog item on this topic-but I fully expect first frost dates and a frost forecast to be of high interest. I kept up on enough details from last week's Pro Farmer crop tour to know that scouts found plenty of soybeans along with some corn that need every last growing degree unit available. It also is evident that September 20 is an important date--frost on or before that date, and it won't be a pretty sight to finish the season. There's the question of harvest weather patterns as well.

Bottom line is, there are some critical items weatherwise for this year's Farm Progress Show, in addition to just being able to get to the show itself.


Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Posted at 6:00AM CDT 08/25/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (2)
Where it has rained crops look good, but look to be a couple weeks behind. Some places have too much rain. Our area has picked up a little over 5'' thus far in August, however the ground has handled it well as it was getting dry prior to that. What does your crystal ball show for the next ninety days? I can't imagine having to deal with a lot of drying cost with an already pathetic corn market. Bean market nothing to brag about either. Weeds seem to be thriving everywhere.
Posted by GWL 61 at 10:09AM CDT 08/25/14
University information indicates it takes something like 20% of total dent to mature growing degree days (GDD) to go from 100% milk line to 50% milk line. A frost that kills only the plants leaves is expected to have a 5% yield loss at a 50% milk line (12% yield loss with whole plant killed at 50% milk line). (A 50% milk line would be 140 to 190 GDD short of maturity depending on relatvie maturity of the corn.) So a killing frost needs to occur near dent to have a major yield dropping impact. Drying "frosted" corn has its own problems. Freeport, IL
Posted by Freeport IL at 11:50AM CDT 08/25/14

Thursday 08/21/14

Rain and a Turn to Cool Weather for Canada

Fine summer weather has covered the Canadian Prairies from later June through mid August with warm weather and just enough rain to allow crops to catch up in most areas from a late start. The typical spotty nature of summer rains lead to some increased areas of dry top soils during the recent few weeks but rains have made a comeback during recent days across most of the Prairie provinces.

For the most part the recent rains are beneficial with soil moisture levels being bolstered to help filling and maturing crops. Since this is not a perfect world there, is also a downside to the rains, with the wet weather hampering areas where early harvest operations have gotten underway.

More rain is expected during the coming days and with a developing low pressure area expected to lift northward from eastern Montana Saturday through Manitoba Sunday. We may expect some heavy totals for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There may certainly be too much rain for some areas if all of our weather chart forecasts work out.

Alberta may not see nearly as much rain and with a drier pattern taking over by Monday and Tuesday, harvest activities may resume through areas where they began prior to the recent rain. For Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the expected rain totals could delay or stop any harvest work into the middle of next week to allow fields to dry out a little.

Rain is not the only newcomer to town. Temperatures are trending much lower across the region as air from Western Canada cycles southward into the region from high pressure across the Northwest Territories. An early fall temperature preview can be expected across the region through at least early next week with widespread below-normal readings.

Thanks to the clouds and rainfall, we do not expect any significant frost threat through Monday, but by early Tuesday or early Wednesday of next week we could see some spotty frost for some central and northern areas. At this time, this does not look like a significant problem, but is something to watch. The normal dates for the first freezing weather are fast approaching for northern areas and a late-August frost is not unusual. Southern areas usually escape frost until we get a week or two into September.

Most of our computer model forecasts tell us we might expect to see temperatures average near to below normal as we move into the end of August and early September and leave the door open for some frost damage for any areas that have late-maturing crops.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:53AM CDT 08/21/14 by Doug Webster

Tuesday 08/19/14

The Indian Monsoon Weakens Again

The Monsoon rains would typical arrive along the south coast of India at about the 1st of June and would move into the Mumbai (Bombay) area by June 10th. This year the early part of the Monsoon was delayed but not by enough to be overly concerned about. However, the push towards the northwest after June 10th was quite a different story.

The leading edge of the Monsoon became stuck for awhile and did not make it's final push towards northwest India until after July 15th. In a normal year the Monsoon would reach to near the Pakistan boarder by July 1st. The delayed rains lead to delays in planting for summer crops in the key oilseed and cotton areas of west-central and northwest India.

When the rains finally arrived there was enough rain within a few week period to help ease concerns, somewhat. This lead to increased plantings of the soybean, groundnut and cotton crops in the area and cautious optimism.

However, during the most recent week it appears that the rains have backed away from northwest and west-central India. If this were to be the withdrawal of the Monsoon it would be exceptionally early. This would likely mean a sharp reduction is production for many key crops. This would include those already mentioned as well as others, such as sugarcane, wheat and rapeseed.

While it does not appear that the rains will be moving back towards northwest India during the medium range period it is too soon to call this the withdrawal. It is likely only a break in the Monsoon at this moment. This will allow for a continued planting pace for any crops that still have not been planted and crops will rely on the moisture that was put down when the rains were active over the prior 3 weeks.

One thing we need to watch at this time is temperatures. As the soils dry out due to the lack of meaningful rains the temperatures will turn hotter. This will increase stress to developing crops, especially the soybean crop in west Madhya Pradesh and possibly the sugarcane crop in northwest India as well. Cotton and sorghum crops are better able to handle the heat so long as soil moisture and/or irrigation is adequate.

The longer this drier pattern holds through northwest and west-central India, the higher the risk will be to summer crops and also to winter crops that will be planted later in the year. This weather pattern needs to be watched.

Joel Burgio


Posted at 11:05AM CDT 08/19/14 by Joel Burgio

Thursday 08/14/14

Warm and Dry for Canada, More Rain Needed

Summer has been in full bloom across Western Canada's crop regions during the past few weeks and while this has been great in allowing for rapid crop advancement after the slow start to the season, we have seen an increase in coverage of dry conditions during August.

Dry weather has been in place across Alberta for the longest stretch and conditions there are becoming increasingly stressful for many crops as heat and lack of rain begins to take its toll. Crop ratings are still good as of the first week of August with 75% of the crop rated good or excellent. This is still above the five-year average of 70% but has been on a steady decline as of late.

Heavy rains that fell across Saskatchewan and Manitoba early in the summer are a distant memory as lots of sunny, warm and mostly dry weather during the past several weeks is now beginning to show up in the form of some heat and moisture stress in some areas. Due to the variable nature of summer showers, a few spots are reporting excess moisture while an increasing number of areas need more rain.

Like Alberta, most areas are seeing a good crop but the very high level of good to excellent crop percentages from a few weeks ago are slipping due to the warm, dry midsummer period.

The prospects for a quick end to the dry weather are not that good. More warm, mostly dry weather for the next several days is expected. Some spotty showers will threaten Alberta and southern Saskatchewan through the weekend and a few of these may even release a few heavier downpours. A region-wide beneficial rain is not in the cards for a while, but we may see some improved chances of wet weather later next week or weekend.

The upper level ridge that brought warm, drier summer weather appears as though it will weaken in about a week. This allows a trough to settle into Western Canada and do two things: First, an increase in rain chances should come about later next week as the jet stream flow settles southward taking the storm track south and brings some disturbances in from the Pacific. Secondly, temperatures will also be on the decline as this trough settles in, but not cold enough to bring an early frost, at least not at first.

With the upper air patterns across North America still showing some of the aspects of the last 18 months, we have to be aware that some cool weather could bring an early end to the growing season if everything were to set up properly. The threat of an early frost may be more of a threat to this season's crop than the increasingly dry conditions that set in during the past few weeks. This is something to watch for as we move into late August and early September.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:27AM CDT 08/14/14 by Doug Webster

Monday 08/11/14

Some Corn Vulnerable To Freeze

This blog entry features an excerpt from an article by Nebraska state climatologist Al Dutcher, which was posted in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cropwatch weekly e-newsletter Friday, August 8. Al Dutcher focused much of the article on Nebraska conditions, but the details presented here apply to other areas of the Corn Belt as well in regard to possible Growing Degree Day shortages for full corn maturity this season.--Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Corn GDDs Suggest Freeze Vulnerabilities

Persistently cool temperatures across most of the Corn Belt have dominated this season, raising the question of whether crops will reach physiological maturity before the first hard freeze.

The portion of the Corn Belt most vulnerable to an early freeze appears to be the Dakota's, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The greatest hard freeze vulnerability in Nebraska lies along the northern border, as well as in fields replanted late due to devastating storm damage.

GDD unit differences from normal are excessive using the May 10 and May 20 emergence dates. On August 5, normal GDD unit accumulations average 25 to 27 units per day. If we take normal GDD accumulations from emergence to maturity and divide by the number of days, the average daily GDD units average 22-23 per day. Therefore, corn emerged on May 10 is running two to three days behind what would be expected given normal temperatures.

Converting accumulated deficits into days behind average using a standard 22 units per day during the growing season indicates corn is running five to eight days behind for the May 20 emergence, 13-17 days behind for a May 30 emergence, and 20-27 days behind for a June 10 emergence.

To come up with the average seasonal accumulated GDD units, GDD accumulations from May 10 to August 5 were added to the normal GDD accumulations (baseline: 1981-2010) expected from August 5 through the mean fall hard freeze date.

Corn emerged on May 30 will likely accumulate 200 fewer GDD units than corn that emerged May 20; corn emerged June 10 would be expected to have 300-350 fewer GDD units. Producers who didn't replant a shorter maturing variety have an above average probability of incurring hard freeze damage prior to physiological maturity.

In order to bring the GDD accumulated deficits back to normal during the next 60 days for corn that emerged May 10, temperatures would need to average 0.5-1.0 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Temperatures would need to average 2.0-2.4 degrees F above normal for a May 20 emergence date, 4.5-6.3 degrees F above normal for a May 30 emergence date, and 7-10 degrees F above normal for a June 10 emergence date. These temperature thresholds assume a shorter season hybrid was not planted.

The warmest 30 days during this growing season was mid-May through mid-June when temperatures averaged 2-4 degrees F above normal. Barring the warmest September on record, corn that emerged at the end of May through early June will likely see a hard freeze before physiological maturity, unless producers moved to a variety that needed at least 300 fewer GDD units to reach maturity. This equates to a variety that takes 13 fewer days to mature than the variety best suited to a particular growing area.

The full report, with detailed information tables, is at this link:…


Posted at 9:42AM CDT 08/11/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (6)
You should also add southern Ontario to that list of place in dager ofa hard freeze. Some fields in my county, Oxford, have not even flower yet!!
Posted by JONATHAN HOOK at 1:57AM CDT 08/12/14
I'd think the soybeans are in a worse position, especially double crop?
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 7:27AM CDT 08/12/14
Has this very cold winter, spring, and now cold summer in the Corn Belt been caused by GLOBAL WARMING???!!!
Posted by JEFF HANSON at 9:22PM CDT 08/12/14
Darn Jeff,,, you got us here especially since the corn belt is the only place in the world where temperatures are measured! Keep your radio tuned in to Rush Limbo and Hanidty for some more "real science"!!!!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 8:03AM CDT 08/13/14
Boys! Boys! Lets agree on climate change and stick to the topic. We have late planted corn and soybeans in northern Ill., with a record corn crop and beans yet to be determined, but still very good. Normal frost is going to mean long lines at the elevator, because of the size of it, and high moisture. Early frost "OUCH"
Posted by Rex Steffes at 7:36PM CDT 08/13/14
Do not forget the low test weights if low GDU's are a factor.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 5:57AM CDT 08/17/14

Thursday 08/07/14

Crops Advance Rapidly in Western Canada

Fine weather continues for crop development and maturation across the Canadian Prairies. This is a pattern similar to last summer when late planting and wet conditions threatened to bring a poor crop but great summer weather ended up bringing about a great crop.

However, the outcome of this year's crop is far from over and there are still some obstacles that could damage the tally.

While many areas have recently seen rather beneficial growing weather, we are starting to see increasing spots of drier conditions pop up. This is as a result of the hit-and-miss nature of summer showers and thundershowers. Southern and southwest Alberta has been rather hot and dry during the last few weeks and need more moisture. There are potentially some locally moderate showers for some of these areas today, but the outlook for the next week then becomes dry again.

Dry areas across Saskatchewan and Manitoba are more widely scattered with most areas reporting soil moisture mostly in the adequate category. The drier conditions are mostly near the U.S./Canadian border, where showers have been more limited during the past week or two.

Warm to occasionally hot weather and plenty of sunshine have helped crop development move along quickly, but can be blamed for drying out topsoil fairly quickly for some areas.

The upcoming weather pattern shows more of what we have seen since mid-July. A few showers and thundershowers will accompany any weak cold fronts crossing Western Canada during the next one to two weeks, but typically this type of pattern does not bring widespread rainfall but rather locally moderate or heavy showers. Some areas will continue to miss or get just small amounts of rain leading dry areas to continue to grow.

Periods of some hot weather are also possible with the middle and end of next week looking quite warm for most of the region. Like we have seen for many of the past months, Manitoba is more susceptible to seeing some cooler weather at times.

Overall the outlook is still largely favorable for maturing crops and the beginning of harvest during the next few weeks, but the lack of rainfall may become a little more of an issue as we move deeper into August.

The overall pattern across North America is largely unchanged from what we have seen for many months. A potential problem could come in the form of an early frost or freeze later this month or during September. While warmer-than-normal temperatures are generally forecast for the next few weeks, we see some threat of a quick-hitting cool snap before crops have finished maturing or have been harvested. This is something we will have to watch for in the coming weeks.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:16AM CDT 08/07/14 by Doug Webster

Friday 08/01/14

Important Week Ahead For Rain

After the dry month of July--when many areas of the northern and central U.S. had rainfall deficits of two to four inches below normal--the forecast during the next week offers light to heavy amounts of precipitation. This is of course a "just in time" forecast as soybeans go into the key month of August, and corn moves into its dough stage ahead of the final steps toward maturation.

That rainfall pattern has a wide range. An arc from south-central Minnesota through eastern Iowa, northeastern Missouri, north-central Illinois, south-central Wisconsin, southern Michigan, northern Indiana, and northern Ohio is in line for one-and one-half inches of rain, possibly heavier, during the time frame from Sunday, August 3, through Thursday, August 7. (This stretch means that the Farmfest farm show in Redwood Falls, MN may have some mud to deal with--but I don't think anyone will be too upset.)

We could also see up to one inch of rain in eastern South Dakota, northeastern Nebraska, southeastern Kansas, western and northern Missouri, central Illinois, central Indiana, central Ohio, central Michigan, central Wisconsin and central Illinois. These are certainly significant rain amounts; and, while this one event doesn't make the crop, it is certainly a timely dose of moisture.

The forecast is much lighter outside of this pocket of heavier precip. Rainfall amounts indicated are no more than one-half inch from central South Dakota south to south-central Kansas, along with central Missouri, south-central Illinois, and east to southern Ohio. There's more of a tail-off for the remainder of the Plains and Midwest, as forecast rain totals only show a maximum of around one-quarter inch.

It will, as always, be interesting to see how this rain pattern evolves. The forecast makes a definite suggestion that conditions will improve in some big-production areas of the Midwest. But, not everyone will share in the full precipitation bounty.


Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Posted at 1:48PM CDT 08/01/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (3)
here in southern Michigan we are more than 4 in. below normal,With most of that being July.No measurable amounts since June 25 th and we are headed back to the upper 80s this week.Beans are very small,acres that are not knee high in the area.We have patches of corn on sandy spots with no ears.Our very good crops we started with are headed south fast with no rain in the 10 day forecast.
Posted by Raymond Simpkins at 12:51PM CDT 08/06/14
In southwest North Dakota July had no rain to offer, late mudded in crops are having a hard time, and now with wheat harvest days from starting we have areas that have seen 8" ot rain in the past few days, in one area the roads have bean washed out. We won't know the damage on the wheat for a few days yet, anything green is lodged from the heavy rains.
Posted by JAMIE KOUBA at 11:28PM CDT 08/06/14
rain for some but not all. not that giant crop when and how will it be disclosed by those who are never wrong
Posted by andrew mohlman at 8:18AM CDT 08/08/14

Thursday 07/31/14

Warmer Temps Benefit Prairie Crops

The weather gods have been on the side of the farmer during the past few weeks across most of the cropland of Western Canada as warmer, drier weather helped crops catch up on crop development. The aerial coverage of excess soil moisture continues to decrease with the majority of farmland now in the adequate soil moisture category.

The turn to a much more favorable weather pattern for crop growth resembles what we saw last year when a cold, wet spring was followed by a very good summer and high crop yields. The jury is still out on what kind of yield we will see this year, but the recent turn to good growing weather is certainly good news and brings about a more favorable potential for the final outcome of many of this summer's crops.

The weather mechanics of why we have seen a turnaround lie with the strengthening of the subtropical ridge across the western U.S. during the mid-summer period. There has been a ridge across the U.S. West for many of the past several months, but it has not been strong enough to extend northward to fend off the active storm track we saw during the spring and early summer until recently.

The subtropical ridge now has enough influence to keep fronts weak and push the main low pressure track to the north of the Prairies. The result for Canada's cropland is a warmer, drier pattern but with a few occasional showers to prevent soils from getting too dry.

One region that is seeing a little too much of a good thing is the southern and southwestern portion of Alberta. Some hot days combined with less rainfall of recent weeks is drying soils a little too much. This is not unlike the pattern we have encountered for much of the past year where the far western and southwestern Prairies have seen less chill and wet weather than areas further to the east across Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Many of the same aspects of the upper air weather pattern are still in place across North America that we saw last winter and for the past year and a half. High latitude blocking and occasional pushes of polar air southward through the central parts of the continent have persisted into mid-summer. Fortunately the long days of summer prevent harsh cold, but if this pattern keeps up we might what to keep an eye on an early frost or freeze threats late in the summer or early fall, especially if crops are running a little behind schedule.

For now, we should enjoy the favorable conditions for crop development, as well as the favorable outlook for the next week or so. The August outlook, by some of the more reliable models, keeps the region in a mostly favorable pattern for crop weather. Eastern areas may see a little more cool weather once in a while than the west and some of the higher chances of rain may be for the eastern Prairies rather than the west; however, it is still a pretty good outlook from a weather standpoint for August.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:43AM CDT 07/31/14 by Doug Webster

Tuesday 07/29/14

General Mills Climate Change Policy

When a Fortune 500 company announces that its concerns about climate change are leading to some new demands on its suppliers, it's interesting. When that company is the third-largest food processor in the U.S.--and is headquartered in the Upper Midwest (Golden Valley, Minnesota) the announcement is worth posting.--Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN


Jul 28, 2014 • By John Church

How the weather forecast impacts food supply

Weather is often something people think about as they’re walking out the door in the morning or as they make weekend plans. But, for a food company like General Mills, it’s a much longer-term consideration.

Weather conditions such as drought, floods and excessive heat, can decrease yields on crops like corn, oats and wheat.

Changing weather patterns can also impact our ability to deliver quality products to our consumers and value to our shareholders.

As weather volatility increases, General Mills recognizes the need to mitigate the climate change risks presented to humanity, our environment and our livelihoods. The urgency is clear: science-based evidence points to changes in climate that could permanently alter the atmosphere if action isn’t taken in the near term.

An innovative, holistic approach is essential.

For years, General Mills has been working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our operations and in agriculture. We’ve had specific GHG targets in place for our direct operations since 2005.

However, given that nearly two-thirds of General Mills’ GHG emissions and 99 percent of water use throughout our value chain occur upstream of our direct operations, primarily in agriculture, we’ve also been focused on advancing sustainable agriculture.

To this end, we’ve made a commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of our 10 priority ingredients by 2020.

These ingredients represent 50 percent of our total raw material purchases. Today, we further our commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture by announcing a corporate climate policy that establishes a framework for our efforts to track and reduce GHG emissions across our broader value chain. This includes requiring key ingredient suppliers to demonstrate environmental, social and economic improvements in their supply chains.

In addition, our policy addresses further reductions in resource usage within our own operations; our leadership role in a multi-stakeholder water stewardship strategy; and our continued contributions to food waste reduction.

Climate change is not an issue one company can tackle alone. It takes the collaboration and dedication of many.

General Mills has sought partners with a shared commitment to mitigating climate change. We recently joined BICEP, Ceres’ Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, in an effort to advocate more closely with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation.

Mindy Lubber, president, Ceres, welcomed us to the group saying: “General Mills is showing increasing leadership on climate change and we are proud to welcome the company as our newest member of BICEP. With General Mills’ global commitment to sustainable sourcing and the work it is doing to reduce GHG emissions in its direct operations and in agriculture, the company brings a lot to the table. We are certain General Mills will be an effective advocate for strong climate and energy policies.”

We also have great, long-standing partners including the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

And, our collaborative work includes other important multi-stakeholder groups such as the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and Bonsucro.

The imperative is clear: business, together with governments, NGOs and individuals, need to act together to reduce the human impact on climate change. Government policies that provide proportionate and clear guidance on mitigation and adaptation are essential for large scale progress.

Business investment in innovations that help reduce natural resource use and create energy alternatives is essential to reach scalable practices and technologies. And, helping individual consumers make more sustainable choices is essential to reducing the collective human impact on the environment.

We all have a part to play.

We encourage you – individuals and organizations alike – to join us in the commitment to reduce our collective environmental footprint and improve the overall health of the planet.

As consumers, we can make a difference by reducing food waste, recycling packaging, using less water and energy and by choosing more energy efficient appliances. Together, our combined actions can have a big impact.

Follow our progress as we report annually in our Global Responsibility Report and via the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Water Disclosure Project.

John Church is the executive vice president of supply chain operations at General Mills, based in Minneapolis. He is responsible for worldwide sourcing, product logistics, manufacturing and global engineering. He joined General Mills in 1988.

An Internet version is at this address:…


Posted at 9:41AM CDT 07/29/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (9)
This is good as long as they follow through and that the practices are truly "sustainable". All industries need to have similar polices as in the end creating a smaller carbon footprint is not only good for the environment but also reduces their usage of fossil fuels which are rapidly depleting. Hopefully General Mills will become a model company in this area.
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 6:00AM CDT 07/30/14
Would be nice if they defined their goals and defined what they mean by sustainable agriculture. Without specifics it looks like they are just patting themselves on the back to look green for uninformed consumers like they did when they said Cheerios were GMO free. Average consumer doesn't know oats are all non-GMO. Nice advertising but show us what you really plan to do.
Posted by David Kessler at 9:44AM CDT 07/30/14
I was in the Teamsters Union for 30 years and have developed a real good B.S. detector and right now it is going off big time.
Posted by GORDON KEYES at 10:45AM CDT 07/30/14
Right on Gordon. It starts with Global Warming and climate change misinformation and then comes these sort of solutions. End result is more corporate and government control and less private ownership and control.
Posted by bbob at 1:00PM CDT 07/30/14
Winds are shifting. You climate change guys need to check the news. You have your heads so far in the sand you are not hearing what's going on NOW!
Posted by BD, NE LA. at 6:18AM CDT 07/31/14
" End result is more corporate and government control and less private ownership and control." BINGO! I ask has the writer investigated or anyone seen what these audits to upstream suppliers look like? It is an open book for corporate theft of trade secrets and incredibly evasive into the records of a company. Walmart tried to force this upon our company and some of the audit literally treats you as if you are a third world company. We chose to not expose our company this insanity. Yes we should become more efficient and the free market dictates I walk into my company every day and improve every aspect to remain competitive!
Posted by Unknown at 8:22AM CDT 07/31/14
I am asking General Mills for more details on the actions cited in the news release. I would think that the farm organization policy staff folks would also be in touch on this topic.
Posted by Bryce Anderson at 8:47AM CDT 07/31/14
There is not such a thing as, "upstream", in ecology. When the entire picture is viewed, the Circle of Life would be a much more accurate description of the subject. As long as people are consuming food, they are someplace on the circle. Defining upstream or downstream is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Sustainable agriculture has a legal definition, as adopted by Congress. Too bad people abuse this in order to justify and support their own agenda.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 8:45AM CDT 08/04/14
If you read this arrival and one from a while back about wall-marts ideas you must ask yourself how long before this turns into another mess of rules and regulations hanging over our head. No matter how you look at it we as farmers do the best job we can do with the resources at hand, use this for example, no one told anyone in a drought area that they should leave the seeder in the shed this year because it wouldn't rain. What can they do for us, the drought strickin farmer had more emissions per bushel of crop he produced. How can you change this situation. All I can say is that this is a dream for them, a headache for us, and another scam for a tree hugger to blame his problems on someone else and give the EPA something more to think about. Pass it on "down stream" our "circle of life"
Posted by JAMIE KOUBA at 12:00AM CDT 08/07/14

Monday 07/28/14

Southwest Water Loss Is Incredible

The following article has some stunning detail about just how much water is being lost in the southwestern U.S. with the tremendous drought--and a lack of conservation. There's a real punch line at the end as well regarding water policy.--Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Satellites show major Southwest groundwater loss

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --- Groundwater losses from the Colorado River basin appear massive enough to challenge long-term water supplies for the seven states and parts of Mexico that it serves, according to a new study released Thursday that used NASA satellites.

Researchers from NASA and the University of California, Irvine say their study is the first to quantify how much groundwater people in the West are using during the region's current drought.

Stephanie Castle, the study's lead author and a water resource specialist at the University of California, Irvine, called the extent of the groundwater depletion "shocking."

"We didn't realize the magnitude of how much water we actually depleted" in the West, Castle said.

Since 2004, researchers said, the Colorado River basin --- the largest in the Southwest --- has lost 53 million acre feet, or 17 trillion gallons, of water.

That's enough to supply more than 50 million households for a year, or nearly fill Lake Mead --- the nation's largest water reservoir --- twice. (BA note--not to mention how many acres' worth of crops could be watered.)

Three-fourths of those losses were groundwater, the study found.

Unlike reservoirs and other above-ground water, groundwater sources can become so depleted that they may never refill, Castle said. For California and other western states, the groundwater depletion is drawing down the reserves that protect consumers, farmers and ecosystems in times of drought.

"What happens if it isn't there?" Castle said during a phone interview. "That's the scary part of this analysis."

The NASA and University of California research used monthly gravity data to measure changes in water mass in the basin from December 2004 to November of last year, and used that data to track groundwater depletion.

"Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water-allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico, Jay Famiglietti, senior author on the study and senior water-cycle specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

The Colorado River basin supplies water to about 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in seven states --- California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming --- as well as to people and farms in part of Mexico.

California, one of the nation's largest agricultural producers, is three years into drought. While the state has curtailed use of surface water, the state lacks a statewide system for regulating --- or even measuring --- groundwater.


Posted at 9:57AM CDT 07/28/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (2)
If the arrogance of the people continues, I hope I live far enough away when the taps won't run. Like every thing else, just a little conservation and common sense would accomplish much.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 6:00AM CDT 07/29/14
Desalinization plants run by solar, wind, geothermal ,or nuclear are going to have to be built if the population continues to rise where there is not consistent rain fall. Some common sense would be in order to not build nuclear plants on a earth quake zone or were they are prone to tide waves. These are the carbon neutral solutions that put people to work and produce a badly needed product, like potable water. This is to much common sense to a problem and not likely to happen any time soon.
Posted by Rex Steffes at 9:46AM CDT 07/29/14

Friday 07/25/14

Climate Trends And Farmer Questions

The following article on a farmer's thoughts regarding climate change and food production ability was written by DTN special correspondent Richard Oswald of Langdon, MO in a feature called "Letter from Langdon" that originally was posted on the "Daily Yonder" website. Richard Oswald is a fifth-generation farmer in Atchison county in northwest Missouri and is president of the Missouri Farmers Union.--Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Letter from Langdon: Reliably Unpredictable

Farmers will have to grow as much food in the next 26 years as they’ve grown in the previous 1,500. And they will have to do it as climate change brings increasingly erratic weather. Maybe it’s time to start asking questions besides “What, me worry?”

By Richard Oswald

Back in his day, Dad always stressed the risky side of farming. As proof he’d pull from a desk drawer his personal handwritten record of Langdon yearly corn prices during the 1950’s. Next to those were annual yields. The message was clear; if prices don’t get you, yield and weather will.

I should have asked more questions.

I thought I had all the answers. When I looked around the neighborhood all I saw was accumulated wealth of successful farmers rooted all the way down to the Depression era. Now I’ve figured out the hard way, secrets are held not in the answers you have, but in the questions you ask, like:

Why were they there?

Because the only farmers I saw were those who had survived.

How does one farmer succeed where so many have failed?

Being optimistic helps. Farmers believe hail storm losses won’t be total, the drought won’t last and rain will fall, the levee could hold if the river drops and, if all else fails, prices should rise. But as optimistic farmers like me grow older, they’ve learned that even if the government doesn’t mess things up, Mother Nature might.

Like an old farmer once said, “I’d rather be lucky than smart.”

Anyhow, Dad was right.

Farming is risky.

Now we have Risky Business, a group that believes climate change and rising sea levels are fact, not fiction. In the past, big agribusiness and a lot of farmers in the U.S. have been naysayers on climate change. But Greg Page, chairman of the board of Cargill, Inc., happens to be on the Risky Business committee.

With interests in at least 65 different nations, Cargill has obviously learned to manage risk. One of the most diversified and best-connected food and agriculture corporations in the world, neither Cargill nor Mr. Page is known for going out on thin ice.

Regardless of whether you believe scientists' 150 years’ worth of temperature records or your favorite political party, you have to believe Cargill. Weather is making farming even riskier.

How risky is it?

For a farmer, risk comes from every direction. It happens when the Cargills of the world raise the cost of fertilizer, cut the price of hogs, cattle or grain. It hits when fuel prices go up or ethanol prices go down.

Or, maybe when Cargill gets the things I have to sell from some distant shore instead of from me.

But the biggest personal risk farmers accept is weather. The effects of local weather aren’t felt across all sectors of business the same way individual mom and pop farms do. Sure, supply and demand eventually come into play no matter how much corporations try to manipulate prices. But, if a tornado blows machine sheds away or hail beats crops to the ground, all a farmer has is insurance and savings (if that) to survive. And insurance is becoming more costly as storm intensities rise – even with bigger deductibles demanded by risk-averse insurance companies.

Most scientists say the climate is warming. One friend, amused by controversy surrounding climate, pointed out to me that global temperatures have been rising since the last ice age–and will probably continue until the next. Iowa State ag meteorologist Elwynn Taylor upholds cyclical patterns as having the greatest effect on weather, giving only 5 percent blame to higher CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels and climate change. Taylor is quoted widely throughout the Corn Belt for his forecasts as well as his views on climate change. But even Taylor seems to bend toward conservation as a way to limit CO2’s effects, especially when he speaks to agriculture’s special interest groups.

Since climate has a lot to do with how much food we can grow, and because Iowa sits at the heart of America’s most productive farmland, Iowa’s land grant universities have a vested interest in studying every aspect of food production. That’s why it’s understandable that more than one opinion on climate emanates from ISU.

Jerry Hatfield is a Ph.D. USDA research scientist based on the Iowa State campus at Ames. Last month, Hatfield was one of the presenters at the Institute on the Environment in St. Paul, Minnesota, during a meeting hosted by Oxfam America. Besides Hatfield, University of Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley and farmers Virginia Nunonca from Peru and Richard Oswald from Langdon, Missouri (that’s me), were also on the program.

Seeley, who also hosts a weekly program on Minnesota Public Radio, served as moderator. Both farmers discussed increasingly-arid conditions in one place while record flooding happened in others. But, it was Jerry Hatfield who got my attention with one statement.

Between now and the year 2040, farmers will need to produce as much food as was grown in the previous 1,500 years. That’s because by then, world population levels are expected to exceed 9 billion. On top of that, greater weather variability means higher temperatures, and production shifts to the north, to places like North Dakota where it used to be impossible to produce long maturity crops like corn.

But not anymore.

So what’s going on?

Most scientists say average temperatures are rising. But that is obscured by an increasingly turbulent atmosphere that carries unusual frost events briefly southward, destroying fruit tree crops. As a result, fruit production is becoming less predictable. And, while average air temperatures at the poles aren’t much different today, the same atmospheric turbulence that affects more moderate latitudes drives warm ocean water to the poles where it melts ice caps from underneath. The result is a thin edge of ice that breaks off more easily as icebergs simply float away and melt.

People like Hatfield emphasize that farm crop production will be highly variable as weather becomes less predictable. All this will happen as food availability is expected to increase to meet population demands. We are using our soil and water at a faster pace than ever before with little emphasis placed on sustainability--which is to say we’re growing food in ways we can’t continue to do forever.

How can we get people to think about that?

Industrial food models don’t offer sustainability. But, like developers in coastal areas, who lobby against real-estate-depressing government warnings of rising sea levels, promoters of industrial food don’t want to talk about where or how they get raw food products or what they make of them.

That was one purpose of the meeting in St. Paul--to call attention to the plight of farmers and consumers as weather becomes more predictably unreliable, so companies like Cargill and Minneapolis-based General Mills will purchase sustainably-produced food ingredients instead of getting them from palm oil plantations that burn trees.

But, it always comes down to asking the right question. Since no one has all the answers, maybe the best question is also the simplest:

How can we do it better?

A web version of this article is at this link:…


Posted at 1:48PM CDT 07/25/14 by Bryce Anderson

Thursday 07/24/14

Canadian Crops Benefit From Warmer, Drier Weather

The weather has been mostly on the side of farmers and their crops since mid-July as warmer, mostly dry weather has taken hold for Western Canada. A brief interruption in this pattern during the next few days will bring some rain which is actually needed in a few areas to bolster top soil moisture which has begun to lag a bit with recent drier weather, especially across western Alberta.

The recent stretch of warm, dry weather has helped crops to recover some from the cool, wet conditions of late spring and early summer, such as the heavy rains that hit earlier in July in southeastern Saskatchewan. (DTN photo by Elaine Shein)

The upper air weather features across North America are expected to bring a mean ridge to the western U.S. which will poke up into Western Canada during the next week and probably as long as two weeks. A trough is currently pushing through southwest Canada bringing the rainy, cooler weather in the short term.

Following the passage of this trough later this weekend and into next week we can expect a return of warm weather and generally dry conditions once again. As has been the case since last winter, Manitoba may see less of the warmth than the western Prairies are expected to see.

The recent stretch of warm, dry weather has helped crops to recover some from the cool, wet conditions of late spring and early summer. While improvement has been noted, crop development is still running a little behind schedule for most areas. Hopefully the expected favorable conditions of the next week or two will allow for more catching up for crops.

Longer-range model products are keeping Western Canada in a mostly favorable weather pattern for crop advancement as we enter August. Near to above normal temperatures are being forecast for much of the region with Manitoba remaining closer to seasonal norms.

The monthly forecast for August across the Prairies is also mostly favorable with temperatures expected to average near to above normal for Alberta and Saskatchewan and just a little lower than normal across Manitoba. Rainfall predictions are for near to above normal amounts, but as long as rains are not too heavy most areas should benefit from this forecast.

Doug Webster can be reached at


Posted at 10:53AM CDT 07/24/14 by Doug Webster
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