BUCKLEY — Farmers can expect this growing season's weather to be more normal than last year's, Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel said.
A climate forecast model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for a very wet March and moderately wet April followed by a dry May-to-August period, Angel said.
The model projects temperatures to be very warm in March, warm in April and normal from May through August, he added.
Last year's weather was affected by a strong La Nina pattern that drenched the Midwest — particularly the Ohio Valley — with rain in spring, then produced a hot, dry summer that stressed crops.
But this year, Angel said, the La Nina pattern is "moderate to weak," suggesting less extreme weather.
Angel said long-term trends, based on the last 15 to 20 years of data, point in a different direction: warmer springs, variable summers, warmer falls and colder winters.
As for long-term precipitation trends, expect more of it. Weather is trending toward wetter springs, summers, falls and winters, he said.
Angel's comments came at the Ford-Iroquois Extension Ag Day, held Friday at Christ Lutheran High School in Buckley.
In other outlooks:
2012 price trends outlined. Look for corn prices to drop this year, and soybean prices to remain relatively strong, agricultural economist Darrel Good said.
The average price of corn during the 2011 marketing year was "just north of $6" a bushel, said Good, a professor emeritus in the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
"The average price for the 2012 crop will be considerably lower than this year's crop," Good said. "Five dollars (a bushel) or lower is certainly a possibility."
Good said the market for corn-based ethanol is leveling out after growing sharply. Meanwhile, demand for corn used as livestock feed is bottoming out after a few years of decline.
The 2010 and 2011 corn crops were small relative to expectations and the size of the market for corn, Good said.
"We'll see a much larger corn crop in 2012," he predicted, citing likely increases in planted acres.
For many years, corn sold in the $2.40 range, but a "structural change" in 2006 — driven by demand for biofuels — introduced a new era in which the price of corn is likely to average $4.60 a bushel, Good said.
Good said soybean prices have "less downside potential than corn" in 2012.
"We see soybean pricing staying above $11 — maybe $11.50," he said.
For many years, soybeans traded in the $6-a-bushel range, but structural changes have pushed up prices to a new-era average of $10.58 a bushel, he said.
Rootworms becoming resistant? Last year, researchers checking fields in northeastern Iowa found evidence that Western corn rootworm beetles had developed resistance to genetically engineered corn.
But UI crop scientist Michael Gray said there's no confirmation — yet — of rootworms becoming resistant to Bt corn in Illinois.
Bt corn is a genetically engineered variety that naturally produces a toxin that poisons rootworms.
Gray said seed company representatives and producers in northern and northwestern Illinois asked researchers to check the situation in their area.
The researchers visited LaSalle, Henry and Whiteside counties and found root damage, but so far they haven't confirmed rootworm resistance to Bt corn.
"We won't have results until later this spring," Gray said.
Last summer an Iowa State University researcher collected adult rootworms, took them back to the lab, then tested their offspring — and found the larvae were not very susceptible to the proteins that are supposed to poison rootworms.
Part of the problem: some Iowa growers had been planting corn year-after-year, rather than rotating corn with soybeans.
To defend against rootworms, Gray advised Illinois farmers to:
— Rotate corn with soybeans, an unpopular move because corn prices have been strong.
— Consider using a corn-rootworm soil insecticide at planting with non-Bt hybrids.