East Pacific ENSO Offers Early Predictive Signals for Harvest Yields

Matthew D. LaPlante 1Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-4820, USA
2Department of Journalism and Communication, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-4820, USA

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Luthiene Alves Dalanhese 1Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-4820, USA

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Liping Deng 3College of Ocean and Meteorology, Guangdong Ocean University, Zhanjiang 524088, China

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Shih-Yu Simon Wang 1Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-4820, USA

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Abstract

Annual wheat yields have steadily risen over the past century, but harvests remain highly variable and dependent on myriad weather conditions during a long growing season. In Kansas, for example, the 2014 crop year brought the lowest average yield in decades at 28 bushels per acre, while in 2016 farmers in the Wheat State, as Kansas is often called, enjoyed an historic high of 57 bushels per acre. It is broadly known that remote forces like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation contribute to meteorological outcomes across North America, including in the wheat growing regions of the U.S. Midwest, but the differential imprints of ENSO phases and flavors have not been well explored as leading indicators for harvest outcomes in highly specific agricultural regions, such as the more than 7 million acres upon which wheat is grown in Kansas. Here, we demonstrate a strong, steady, and long-term association between a simple “wheat yield index” and sea surface temperature anomalies, more than a year earlier, in the East Pacific, potentially offering insights into forthcoming harvest yields several seasons before planting commences.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Matthew D. LaPlante, matthew.laplante@usu.edu

Abstract

Annual wheat yields have steadily risen over the past century, but harvests remain highly variable and dependent on myriad weather conditions during a long growing season. In Kansas, for example, the 2014 crop year brought the lowest average yield in decades at 28 bushels per acre, while in 2016 farmers in the Wheat State, as Kansas is often called, enjoyed an historic high of 57 bushels per acre. It is broadly known that remote forces like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation contribute to meteorological outcomes across North America, including in the wheat growing regions of the U.S. Midwest, but the differential imprints of ENSO phases and flavors have not been well explored as leading indicators for harvest outcomes in highly specific agricultural regions, such as the more than 7 million acres upon which wheat is grown in Kansas. Here, we demonstrate a strong, steady, and long-term association between a simple “wheat yield index” and sea surface temperature anomalies, more than a year earlier, in the East Pacific, potentially offering insights into forthcoming harvest yields several seasons before planting commences.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Matthew D. LaPlante, matthew.laplante@usu.edu
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