Could the Western Corn Belt drought expand east this spring?


Could the Western Corn Belt drought expand east this spring?

An ag meteorologist says he wouldn’t be surprised to see the drought in the Western Corn Belt expand east this spring.

Eric Snodgrass with Nutrien Ag Solutions tells Brownfield that’s about 35 percent and it depends on how cold the water in the Gulf of Alaska gets. “I’m concerned about it spreading north into Nebraska farther and getting into South Dakota and west into Wyoming. But what about into Iowa or Missouri? If all of that shifts and gets larger in area by the time we get to about mid-May, then my level of risk goes way up.”

Snodgrass says the Gulf of Alaska is experiencing negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a weather pattern that produces colder ocean temperatures on the West Coast, which can negatively impact rainfall in the Corn Belt.

However, Snodgrass says another factor is La Nina and that weather pattern is fading. “That could be a signal that we could get back into a pattern that might favor more normal spring rainfall. But at that point, we’re going to be talking about dodging the rain drops rather than wanting that moisture back in that soil,” he says. “It’s pretty far out there but I think April and May are going to be pretty active in much of the Corn Belt this year.”

He says fieldwork in the West should begin within the next month while growers in the East are waiting for snow cover to melt and that could take up to six weeks.