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Source: Planalytics news release

It has been a long winter and practically everybody involved in agriculture and agribusiness is anxious for the season to start. Recent weather events are putting a damper on things in a lot of areas... in more ways than one. Here is our assessment of current conditions in several key areas of the country that are impacting the start of field work and planting.

1) California and Pacific Northwest
Water issues in California have dominated the news lately. The last two weeks of February saw a lot of beneficial moisture in the Pacific Northwest and California that brought welcome relief to some areas in the short term. Unfortunately, California needs much more than the 10 to 15 inches received over the last 30 days.

2) Plains and Western Fringes of the Corn Belt
Precipitation totals for the last thirty days mimic those of the entire winter; the Plains and western portions of Iowa and Missouri have had drier than normal conditions. The Drought Monitor is currently showing much of the Plains and western Corn Belt with moderate to severe Drought (D-1 to D-2). The combination of residual subsoil moisture and our current outlook point to a start to the season that would be 1 to 2 weeks ahead of what would be considered "normal".

3) Early Planting Areas of the Deep South
A series of precipitation events produced 3 to 8 inches of rain equivalent across much of the Deep South and Southeast. Streams and rivers across these areas remain at or near flood stage while fields remain saturated. The forecasted storm pattern for the next several weeks indicates that these areas will remain wet. Look for delays in field work of 1 to 2 weeks.

4) The Midwest
The existing snow cover is only one factor affecting Midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of Iowa and Illinois. The other problem is soil temperature. A harsh winter has the frost level down 2 to 3 feet in Iowa and northern Illinois and 3 feet or more in states to the north. A lot of warm air and/or solar insulation is needed to get back to normal soil temperatures.

NWS "El Niņo Watch"

On Thursday of this week, March 6, The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (NCEP) issued an "El Niņo Watch". Here is what their statement went on to say: "ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 with about a 50 percent chance of El Niņo developing during the summer or fall". In other words, there is a 50 percent change that it won't.

Since we have been saying for many months now that an El Niņo is needed to break the drought in the West, yesterday's announcement that we may - or may not - have an El Niņo this season leaves us a little cold. Next week we will give you our assessment of the current ENSO state and the possibilities that we will have an El Niņo this year.

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