If you believe in omens, 2008 may be the wrong year to grow dryland corn in the Midwest, says Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University Extension climatologist. He cites three indicators:

  • A La NiƱa weather pattern is building in the Pacific Ocean's equatorial region, which indicates a 70% chance corn will yield below trend in the U.S. Corn Belt.
  • History indicates the average time span between major droughts in the Midwest is about 19 years. The last major drought was 1988 -- 19 years ago.
  • Ongoing drought in states like South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. Of the 17 major droughts in the Midwest in the past 100 years, 16 were preceded by a major drought in the Southeast.
Even more ominous, however, is that all three indicators will converge ahead of next year's corn crop.

"We have no scientific evidence to think that all three factors will gang up on us next year to create a major drought, but these are certainly all factors that will put people on edge," Taylor says.

Ample soil-moisture levels, however, are a silver lining for dryland corn farmers come spring, he adds. The only question is how long soil moisture levels will stay plentiful to cope with a summer that may turn hotter than normal.

To learn more about potential weather concerns for Iowa, visit: www.extension.iastate.edu/weather.htm. For more info on Midwestern weather, visit: mrcc.sws.uiuc.edu/. And for more from the National Weather Service, visit: www.weather.gov/.