Iowa State agronomist suggests El Niño could benefit Midwest's farmers

Elwynn Taylor said that long El Niño periods that continue into the growing season show higher yields at least 70 percent of the time. | File photo
Iowa State University agronomist Elwynn Taylor is predicting the El Niño weather pattern could translate to unusually robust harvests for Midwestern farmers.

Taylor, who specializes in the agronomics of weather, said data from past El Niño events shows that the weather pattern may produce more crops for farms in the Midwest. Those farmers need to be careful not to count their chickens before they hatch, however, as Taylor also said his prediction is tempered by a few conditions.

First, the current El Niño needs to last long enough to affect the length of the growing season. Midwestern farmers may also fail to see a benefit if this El Niño is followed immediately by the opposite trend, known as La Niña.

“La Niña doesn’t always follow an El Niño,” Taylor said. “There are more El Nino events than La Niña. All El Niños seem to have their own personalities,” Taylor said. “This one comes in by most measures as stronger than usual.”

Taylor said that long El Niño periods that continue into the growing season show higher yields at least 70 percent of the time. Other years that bring La Niña in El Niño’s wake resulted in droughts and hurt crop production.

It’s a complicated weather pattern that makes it difficult to predict what the future brings. Taylor said El Niño events always shake up the normal rules of regional weather and experts are left to take their best guesses at what’s ahead. 

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