Corn and soybean growing areas in the northern Corn Belt will likely stay too cool, too long, for an early start to planting, however, says Drew Lerner, World Weather, Inc., meteorologist and owner. “This spring, we’ll likely see colder-than-normal conditions prevail in the Upper Midwest and delays to spring planting,” he says. “Right now, the big snow deposits are in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Iowa. In these areas, it will likely be slow to warm up and for snow to melt come spring.”

Flooding could also be an issue for parts of the Corn Belt in 2011, he adds. “In the Upper Midwest, the flooding potential will probably come down to how quickly the snow melts,” says Lerner. “However, as we move toward spring, colder-than-normal weather is likely to remain in the northern Great Plains, while a wetter-than-normal weather pattern will likely evolve in the Ohio River Basin and northern Delta. Both areas will have a wetter-than-usual bias for a little while during spring, but neither is expected to persist into a serious problem.”

While the entire Corn Belt is likely to be slow to warm up this season, the southwestern Corn Belt won’t likely be nearly as wet as the Corn Belt as a whole, says Lerner. As a result, Midwestern “corn and soybean growers in the east and north may experience more of a delay in getting planting done than in the southwest,” he points out.

Unlike a fair number of other meteorologists who may have a different view, Lerner says he believes the current La Niña system will last throughout the entire 2011 growing season. “If that occurs, this will give us a warmer and drier bias during early summer, particularly in the southeast,” he says. “That dryness will work itself from the southeast into the northwest as the summer goes on. So, that warmer-than-usual and drier-biased weather will likely be coming into Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and northwestern Illinois during late July and August.

“The bottom line to all of this is that if farmers in these areas are late in getting their crop in the ground this spring, their corn and soybeans will be more vulnerable to summer dryness, particularly in the northwestern Midwest,” adds Lerner.

Still, just how much La Niña will impact crop production comes down to timing, Hillaker notes. “We can talk about general tendencies of a La Niña with a fair amount of certainty, but the timing of when rains may come or when temperatures may change significantly is way beyond what we’re able to do right now,” he says. “It’s the timing of those events, and not so much the general tendencies, that can have the biggest impact on crop production.”

For more information about La Niña weather systems, visit the following Climate Prediction Center website.