2012 was the warmest year on record in Missouri since 1895, when established instrumental temperature records began, according to Pat Guinan, extension climatologist with the University of Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program. Combined with the lack of rainfall for the entire state, we experienced exceptional drought conditions in the Southeast region and most of the state.
Drought impacts continued to mount in July, including widespread crop and pasture losses, livestock stress, and declining stock water and hay supplies. Hydrological issues such as dry wells and streambeds, low river levels, and rural and urban water restrictions were increasingly common. In fact, the Mississippi River still has issues with barge traffic. There is a possibility that at some point that barge traffic on the Mississippi might have to be shut down. This is due to the US Army Corp of Engineers reducing the flow of the Missouri River by 2/3s on December 1.
The remnants of Hurricane Isaac brought the first widespread relief to the state at the end of August. Some stressed vegetation began to green up again, but for many crops and other plant species the damage had already been done.
Even though overall drought conditions improved across portions of Missouri this fall, a complete recharge of water resources above and below the ground had not been realized by the end of December. Winter is typically the dry season in Missouri and it is unlikely that surface and ground water supplies will fully recover for the start of next year's growing season in many parts of the state.
The highest likelihood for hydrological drought carrying over into 2013 is across northwestern Missouri, which typically receives only 3-4 inches of precipitation between December and February?not nearly enough to make up for a year-end precipitation deficit of more than a foot. Southern and eastern sections of the state have better chances for drought recovery. Heavier autumn precipitation has occurred there and more winter precipitation generally falls.
If we compare the time period of January 1-January 15, we had 4.11 inches of precipitation at Cardwell in 2012 and 3.5 inches in 2013. According to the Drought Monitor for January 15 we are classified as abnormally dry to moderate drought in the Southeast region. Our forecast is for an equal chance of above, below, and normal temperatures and precipitation for February and the next three months.
The outlook looks like an ?El Nižo light? forecast because NOAA is not sure what is going to happen with an El Nižo that was developing but has stalled in the past month. Typically, in strong El Nižo winters the jet stream is strong coming through Mexico into the Southern United States. As a result, the Gulf Coast and Florida are usually wetter/cooler than normal. Since this El Nižo is fairly weak, NOAA is unsure about how dominant that southern branch of the jet stream will be. So, the outlook is one that hints at an El Nižo winter for the United States, but to a lesser degree than we would have seen if the current developing El Nižo hadn?t stalled. Most computer models are indicating a weak El Nižo for this winter.
With the relatively mild winter, the wheat crop looks good except on the heavier ground that has had too much moisture. As I mentioned in a previous column, wheat acreage is up in our region due to the higher prices.
With the higher corn and soybean prices, it is anticipated that we will have a smaller cotton crop. The cotton planting intentions survey that is conducted by the National Cotton Council will be available on February 9.
A lot can happen as far as cotton acreage is concerned. Both the US and world endings stocks are increasing which will have a negative impact on prices. China is still driving the price and acreage around the world.
However, as long as China keeps buying cotton and building stocks this will help support prices at least in the short term. The risk is when China stops building stocks and starts releasing cotton from their reserve, and then prices will fall.
As I have stressed on many occasions, our irrigation resources have really helped us in the SE region. With our irrigation, the USDA has estimated that our 2012 cotton crop average yield as 1018 pounds per acre. This is 58 more pounds per acre than last year. It will be interesting to see how the crop acreage numbers will be after planting.
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