“The summer forecast is much like last summer’s,” according to Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University professor, “warmer than normal west of the Continental Divide and cooler east of the Continental Divide.”

While that’s a pleasant prospect for people, it’s also good for corn yields. “Cooler summers tend to have higher corn yields,” he told attendees of an outlook session during World Pork Expo. Winters are cooler today than a century earlier, and overall, storms are more frequent and more dramatic. We’re also getting more days that produce multiple inches of rain per day, Taylor added.  

In fact, annual precipitation has increased 10 percent. “Since 1950, the Corn Belt has become increasingly moist,” he said. “The average annual rainfall has increased from 31.5 inches to 34 inches.”

However, there are signs of a shift in our future. “There is some indication that the pattern is changing from moist to dry,” Taylor added. “It changes every 40 years or so.”

Drier isn’t a problem unless it moves to the extremes. “We’re overdue for a drought,” he pointed out. In general, droughts run on an 18-year cycle and we’re beyond the 20-year mark. ” Twenty-three years is the record, so this year or next is a real possibility.”

Adding to the prospect of a drought, is the fact that the weather pattern suggests the development of a La Nina by the end of June. A La Nina doubles the chance of a drought. Of course, that could stress the developing crop.

There is a fallacy that plant breeding has made crops less vulnerable to droughts. “We’ve had 14 years of consistent corn yields,” Taylor said. “But since the 1990s, corn yields in a good year average 130 bushels per acre and 70 bushels in a bad year. New varieties haven’t impacted corn yields when there’s a drought.”

The key is to keep an eye on weather patterns and crop developments, as it relates to your risk management strategies. After all, profit opportunities aren’t just dependent on hog prices.

“This outlook could change. The next two weeks are key to the development of the summer’s weather pattern,” Taylor said.