"The Future. Faster.": Episode 38

Posted April 12, 2023 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions

From La Nina to El Nino: Looking Ahead to a Season of Weather Swings, with Eric Snodgrass

The planter is tuned up, the seed is in the shed, and growers are ready to get to work.

But that doesn't mean Mother Nature is in any mood to cooperate yet with Planting Season 2023.

In this episode, we talk with Eric Snodgrass, Science Fellow and Principal Atmospheric Scientist at Nutrien Ag Solutions, for a look at what the planting season has in store from a climate and weather perspective in another year that seems poised to swing between extremes.

Eric tells us that the La Nina system that has driven weather patterns for the last several years has wound down, and there seems to be an El Nino rising up in its place. He explains what that will mean for growers across North America, and explains why some previously drought-stricken parts of the country are suddenly inundated with too much rain.

Plus, we examine how recent outbreaks of severe weather are on the rise, and how North America's weather fits in to the broader global climate picture.

Visit nutrienagsolutions.com/farmsmart to learn more about FARMSMART, Nutrien Ag Solutions' new sustainable ag brand.

Episode Transcript

Eric Snodgrass:

The next few months are largely going to be dominated by the fact that we are not going into a growing season with La Nina. We lost La Nina fast; we lost it in about 30 days back in February, and the atmosphere is advertising a lot of signs suggesting that we’re going to go over into a full blown El Nino by summer.  

 

Dusty Weis:

Welcome to The Future. Faster. A sustainable agriculture podcast by Nutrien Ag Solutions. With our very own Tom Daniel, Director of North America Retail and Grower Sustainable Ag, and Dr. Sally Flis, Director, Sustainability Program Design & Outcome Management.  

This is your opportunity to learn about the next horizon in sustainable agriculture for growers, for partners, for the planet. To us, it's not about changing what's always worked, it's about continuing to do the little things that make a big impact.

On this week’s episode, we’re joined by Eric Snodgrass, Science Fellow and Principal Atmospheric Scientist at Nutrien Ag Solutions, and he’s got a look at what the planting season has in store from a climate and weather perspective in another year that seems poised to swing between extremes.  

But if you haven't yet, make sure you're subscribed to this podcast in your favorite app. Also, make sure you follow @NutrienAgSolutions on Facebook and Instagram.

I’m Dusty Weis. And it's time once again to introduce Tom Daniel and Sally Flis. 

And Tom, I hear that Nutrien Ag Solutions recently introduced a new sustainable ag brand, at commodity classic last month called FARMSMART. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What is FARMSMART?

 

Tom Daniel:

Well, Dusty, we've been going around for a long time using the term sustainable ag or sustainability as our, quote, “title” in our group. And even when we go to explain those terms out into the field, it becomes very undefined because there's so many people out here in the marketplace today that are trying to define the term sustainability, regenerative ag, all of these different titles. And we decided as a team that the best approach we could have is to have our own identity that we want to fall under. And that's where FARMSMART came from. And the purpose of FARMSMART is for us to be able to define what is a part of sustainability. What is part of regenerative ag? You can even have discussions around other practices or programs that might come together. So we're using FARMSMART as our umbrella focus. It's not only focused on different projects and programs that we have as a group but it can be used by our retail organization for agronomic solutions where they're driving for a certain type of output off of a solution. It could be productivity or water management or greenhouse gas emissions. It could be multiple different projects that would fit under that FARMSMART title. So that's kind of how we pulled this together. And we're going to start using this now as our brand identity in the field when we talk about sustainability. 

 

Hey, but I do wanna say one other thing too, before I ask Sally a question, I think we need to congratulate Sally that she has been promoted. She's in the director's role now with Nutrien Ag Solutions and very well deserved. And I think it's a good move for us to have Sally in this role now today. So Sally, I'm going to ask you a question. Why did Nutrien Ag Solutions decide, you think, to invest in a brand like FARMSMART?

 

Sally Flis:

One of the big reasons, Tom, is there's just so much, I guess clutter's probably a good way to put it out there. You mentioned a couple of them already. Sustainability, sustainable ag, regenerative ag. And there's so many different things that fall into all of those things and really cut across all of it when you're having that discussion with a grower or a crop consultant. And that's where FARMSMART really lets us kind of tie those things together under one name and hopefully decrease the amount of clutter that's out in the discussions that we hear around doing practices that improve the land year over year. 

 

Tom Daniel:

Well, I think the other thing too, Sally, is it gives our retail guys and even our grower customers something that they can grasp. And it gives us something that we can define to the field and gives them a focus point that they can work with. So Sally, oftentimes a lot of our programs that we have, we try to make them simple, but they almost always end up looking somewhat complex when they get to the field level. When we're thinking about those type of programs and the requirements that go along with it, a lot of times we don't have as much control over those as we think we do. They're set up or they're kind of run by a governing body or some type of downstream partner. In the situation of Farm Smart though, how can we organize these programs and maybe simplify the offerings as we bring them to the field? 

 

Sally Flis:

We've grouped them into three pillars for now, and I'm sure this will evolve as the brand evolves and as our work in the field evolves. But right now we're looking at, it's really kind of the three steps of being involved a little bit too. It's the practices that that grower is looking at doing in the field or that we're looking at helping a grower implement in the field that are gonna give us that year over year continuous improvement so that there's that combination of products and practices on the operation. A big one that we talk about all the time is the proof piece, right? The data that shows that the practices or products that were implemented get us to a sustainability metric, whether that's carbon or water quality or soil health or reduced emissions to the air or decreased soil loss. So there's a whole list of different metrics that we look at in the FARMSMART suite of outcomes that we're going to have available to growers who participate. And then profit. So how do we get growers and our crop consultants rewarded for the effort that goes along with the data collection, with the practices being installed, with the reporting, and help find those new revenue streams or market access opportunities to get at that third pillar of social, economic, environmental, that economic pillar that helps drive sustainability year over year. 

 

Tom Daniel:

A lot of the growers we work with today, when we talk about practices, proof and profit, the first P, practices, a lot of them are already doing practices, right? But one of the key things they've not done is provided proof to those practices. And so when we think about proof, if you were giving advice to a grower today, that's wanting to participate in some of these revenue opportunities  as they come up. What would be your advice today to tell them that they have to do to be able to participate in some of these programs? 

 

Sally Flis:

Keep records, you can't participate in any of these programs without some sort of records, Tom. It doesn't matter what it is, if it's just that measurement piece where we're just reporting on what's happening on the ground or if it's getting through a verification and validation process. If we don't have some proof to share back to that buyer, to the downstream partner or to the verification body or to an end consumer type verification approach, there's no value there. So there's no value to any of this, or the practice changes happening on the ground, we can't achieve that value without the data to back it up. And that doesn't mean the data has to be one specific type of data. It can be whatever works best for the grower, but there's got to be something there to show the practice has happened and how the grower is implementing them on the ground. 

 

Sally Flis:

So Tom, how does a grower get enrolled in FARMSMART? 

 

Tom Daniel:

Well, the first thing you have to do is they have to get onto the Agrible website, log into Agrible, agrible.com, and they can go to the Nutrien Ag Solutions website and find the Agrible download. But you have to create an account. That's simply logging in, setting up an account within Agrible, and it's our digital sustainability platform, and it's free to sign up for. Growers can use it. It has no charge attached to it. It allows them to have their data into a digital system and track their information. I was going to ask you a minute ago when you talked about the proof piece, how important is it to be in a digital platform? I remember growing up on the farm watching my mom and dad 50 years ago. They kept all their records in a cigar box, right? 

 

Tom Daniel:

And this time of year, tax time, they were all sitting around going through the cigar box, you know, as far as their receipts and stuff, but for this to work, the grower’s got to be able to track his data. His data has got to go into some type of digital platform that makes it accessible and something that can be provided to some of these modeling agencies. So they, they can get, uh, and by the way, Dusty, when I say modeling agencies, I'm not talking about that… 

 

Dusty Weis:

Nobody walking a cat walk there. 

 

Tom Daniel:

No, no, no, we're modeling outcomes on the farm, that information's got to flow seamlessly into the marketplace. Otherwise, the data lift and the requirements are just too extensive to people who wanna do it. And here's the key, Sally, everybody wants to get paid, right? They wanna get paid for what they're doing. And growers can get paid for the actual outcomes that are occurring. But if you don't have the data, if you don't have it in the system, that can easily transfer that data to a usable form that can be modeled, they're not going to get paid. So we want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity. So enroll in the platform, start collecting data into the platform. These platforms are designed for growers to put their data in. So they can actually start using the platform to record their own field level data. And then that data, if they choose to, and I'm going to say this again, Sally, if they choose to, that data can be provided to revenue sources that can give them money. And Sally, I might want to get you to emphasize that. I use the word choose to. How important is it that the grower has control completely of his data? 

 

Sally Flis:

Super important Tom and I guess I to circle back to a couple things on your comment: One I don't want to discourage people who are keeping paper records from participating because we do get those still right? 

 

Tom Daniel:

Yeah, we do. 

 

Sally Flis:

But that can be kind of that secondary evidence of what goes into the Agrible platform sort of serves as like our primary level of evidence. That's the data we're going to use to calculate our outcomes to have modeling work done. But there’s gotta be some level of secondary evidence available there, whether it's handwritten stuff, stuff in a cigar box, or if in their farm management software, whatever their brand choice is for that. But getting it into that Agrible platform, like you say, Tom, is where the grower starts to get a better understanding of where they're going to fit. You're not enrolled in anything. When you get into Agrible, you're simply getting that data collected and in a place where our teams can take a look at it and help that grower or crop consultant decide which program is the best fit for them, right? I mentioned a little bit about the pre-existing practices. Well, there's hopefully gonna be some programs coming out that allow those growers that already have practices established to participate, which is something we haven't had in the past. But if the data for what the grower's doing doesn't exist in Agrible, then we can't query Agrible and say, hey, these are growers that might be interested or able to participate in a program that we're developing. 

 

Dusty Weis:

I've been hearing about the FARMSMART brand a whole lot since you guys launched it in Orlando recently, at Commodity Classic, but Sally, if someone is interested in learning more about FARMSMART, where can they learn more? 

 

Sally Flis:

They can visit nutrienagsolutions.com/farmsmart to learn more about the programs and how to get signed up. 

 

Dusty Weis:

Fantastic. Well, Sally, Tom, it's about that time of year right now where most growers have got one thing on their mind and that is planting and whether or not they've already got that process underway or they're sitting around waiting for mother nature to cooperate a little bit. A lot of that is gonna hinge on what the weather conditions have in store for us. And so coming up after the break here, we're gonna talk to Eric Snodgrass. He is our local climate expert for Nutrien Ag Solutions. He's going to fill us in on just what we expect to see from the weather this year and the conditions out in the field as well as an update on some of the really extreme weather patterns that we've been seeing here recently. That's all coming up in a minute here on the Future. Faster. 

 

Dusty Weis:

This is the Future Faster, a sustainable agriculture podcast by Nutrien Ag Solutions. I'm Dusty Weis along with Tom Daniel and Sally Flis, and we're joined now by Eric Snodgrass, science fellow and principal atmospheric scientist at Nutrien Ag Solutions. Eric, thanks for joining us today. 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Yeah, thanks for having me on again. 

 

Dusty Weis: 

So Eric, we'll kind of start out the same way that we did when we talked last year, because this time of year there's one thing on everybody's mind, but most of North America, of course, is awaiting more favorable weather conditions to get out and start planting here in 2023. So can you share some of the predictions that you've got for the 2023 weather cycles? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Yeah, I think it's going to start off with delays. Unfortunately, we've got a tremendous amount of snow that's in the northern plains in the upper Midwest, so that'd be the headwaters of like the Mississippi River or the Red River of the North, and they're expected to get more snow in those areas here in just the next few days. So April's not starting off the way that anybody up there wants to see it. We've had multiple severe weather outbreaks, including one on March 31st that actually continued into the 1st of April and the 2nd of April, totaling about 1500 different reports of severe weather, including over 100 tornadoes, and that’s really knocked a lot of folks out in the central part of the country. You go out west, they've got snow that is better measured in meters than feet in my opinion. You know, there's places in the Sierra Nevada that have got over 60 feet of snowpack. There's 100 to 120 inches of water in that snow. And any sort of a mild forecast is going to force some of that to melt, which is going to increase the spring flooding threat. And right now, the Tulare Basin actually has a massive lake in it due to all of that flooding, which is down in southern parts of the Central Valley of California. 

So you say where are we going? I'm sitting here going gosh we've got to keep track of where we are right now to try to even see how soon things are going to get in. The problem is if we do go over mild in the near term like let's just say it breaks off warm that's going to produce a massive amount of flooding because of all of the melt that would happen up north and unfortunately that means one of those years where I think we could see increased risk of permitted plant in the northern plains and by the way while I've been talking about everywhere that's had all this wet and stormy weather, there is a place that’s still deep in drought, and that is the central and southern plains, parts of Kansas, Colorado, getting into Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, all of the western side of the plains is still very, very dry. So unlike previous years where you get to this point of the year and you start to see, hey, it's opening, go, go, go. Right now I'm like, sit back down on your hands, we have to be patient and wait because we’ve just got a very active pattern setting up.

 

Dusty Weis: 

Eric, I've got to ask because, you know, it's, it's definitely a tough forecast out there right now, you know, it's too cold or too dry or too wet. Is there any place though that has it going on just right? Like, is there anybody out there who's got some good news for once? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

I think there are some happier people in parts of the Cotton Belt. It's been mild down there. They've been able to get things established, but at the same time they had an untimely freeze that hit back in March 20th. Now cotton, we're not really worried about cotton at that point, but if you're just thinking about field prep and getting things going, you could possibly say that down south things are all right, but at the same time they're about to see quite a bit of thunderstorm activity, some wetter conditions. And so, so no, I don't think anybody's happy. 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

And every morning I have to wake up and just deliver another round of bad news. But I've got broad shoulders and thick skin, so I'm used to doing it. 

 

Tom Daniel: 

So Eric, I'll ask a question. You know that this time of year everybody gets nervous because especially when we're sitting, as you said, we're sitting on our hands right now waiting to go. Planters are sitting in the shop. Everything's greased. We're ready to go plant. But we can't get into the field right now. So what do we expect in the next few months? What do you see as some of the trends that we may look for? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Well, it's interesting. The next few months are largely going to be dominated by the fact that we are not going into a growing season with La Nina. That's been the story for the last three growing seasons, and here we are finally breaking away from that. We lost La Nina fast. We lost it in about 30 days back in February, and the atmosphere is advertising a lot of signs suggesting we're going to go over into a full-blown El Nino by summer. Now, it's still spring. We don't yet fully know if that's going to be the case, but a lot of folks say, well, what does that mean for me? 

If you stack up all those El Nino years and put them all together, what does it mean? Well, it generally means that the Western United States is hotter and drier. It generally means that the central plains of the U.S., the Midwestern United States, the primary corn and soybean belt tend to not see such extreme heat and also tend to see better precipitation. It tends to mean a less active hurricane season. So there's a lot of reasons why people, if you're east of the Rockies, you love El Nino. And if you’re west of the Rockies, there's some concern about it, but the good news is west of the Rockies, the reservoirs are full. There's a ton of snow. There's water going into this year. So heat's not necessarily a problem except the increased risk of wildfires later on in the year because all that snow as it melts and all that moisture out there will increase vegetation growth and as a result you'll have a lot of timberland with new growth that will dry out later in the fall and later in the summer and fall, you know, serve as something that could, you know, start fires.

But if I had to tell anyone who is a corn and soybean grower… We looked back going back to 1970 there has been 17 time periods where there's been a El Nino in summer and 14 of those 17 had trend yields or above. That does not guarantee that this year is going to be one of those years but we've just taken a big thing off of the table in terms of risk and that is getting rid of La Nina and bringing in a better weather pattern. 

 

Sally Flis: 

So Eric, you mentioned both El Nino and La Nina there, and as an equine person, I think those are donkey names. Could you explain to us a little bit more about what the difference is between El Nino and La Nina and why we even talk about those two elements as part of our forecasting? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Yeah, I tell you what, since you brought up names, I'll tell you where we got those names, El Nino and La Nina. So there was a scientist, Sir Gilbert Walker. He was put by the British into India to study the monsoon in India. Huge thermally direct circulation that can sometimes put down 500 to 1000 inches of rain in the Himalayan mountains. Okay, he's there trying to study the fluctuations of the monsoon. 

And he notices what tends to govern that is a change in the ocean temperature and trade wind pattern in the Pacific. And so he starts researching and understanding this. It turns out that that particular fluctuation in the Pacific, which we call El Nino La Nina, the word El Nino actually came from a bunch of Peruvian fishermen back in the late 1800s who named it that because the typical peak of an El Nino or La Nina event tends to happen around the Christian holiday of Christmas. So El Nino here is in reference to a person. That's Jesus. Okay. So why, what are they talking about? All right, this is it.

Trade winds, they run from east to west across the planet. For some reason, that's literally what I'm going to tell you, for some reason, they gain momentum and lose momentum. Every time they gain momentum, we have a La Nina event, cold water up wells, and the jet stream pattern over the North American continent slows down, bunches up, and gives us risk of drought in the midsection of the country. 

When the strong tradewinds quit, we have the beginning of an El Nino event. And all the warm water that got pushed by those trade winds over to Australia sloshes back across the open Pacific, the Pacific looks warm and the trade winds lose momentum the jet stream gains it which is why North America tends to have a better growing season with more momentum in the flow more routine weather systems now to be honest with you if you attempt to correlate El Nino or La Nina with any weather pattern any season in the United States or Canada the highest correlation coefficient it'll have is somewhere either negative 0.4 to 0.4. So it's not a slam dunk. It's just the biggest background feature that allows us to say something about the upcoming growing season. So it's kind of funny. I know I live here in Illinois, but I watch the weather over the Pacific, I think more than I watch the weather in Illinois, because it's often the thing that's going to telegraph what's going to happen. In fact, we call El Nino and La Nina a teleconnection. It shows you how the Earth's atmosphere is all linked together as one large system.

 

Tom Daniel:

So, Sally, I don't know, did that answer your question? 

 

Dusty Weis: 

I learned something today. I'm not gonna lie. 

 

Sally Flis: 

It did answer my question. It always leads to more questions. Eric knows that when I'm in the audience, he's going to get a lot of follow up questions. I think one that. One that came up when we were all in Orlando together was and you've mentioned it a little bit here is the heavy snowfall in the West. And we know there's only so much water available on the planet. You mentioned there's still some drought in the U.S. But where is dry now because we have higher precipitation in the West than we’ve seen in 10 years?  

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

What I'm seeing right now is that the jet stream totally took a different turn back in February and La Nina let go and pushed this second surge of moisture into the West Coast, which has just broken records. In fact, you mentioned that I was just thinking the fact that right now, in and around Tahoe, there's 60 feet of snow in some places. That number boggles my mind. But anyway, where it was taken from was mostly the North Pacific. So there's a big area there that's gone over very, very dry. 

Systems have avoided it, high pressure’s built into that area and that's where one of the deficits have been. Also I'm seeing some deficits across Siberia. Much of Russia has shown up with some deficits, but not where people are growing anything. So that's why we're not hearing about it, but you're right. The whole thing is conserved, right? It's got to take from somewhere to give to somewhere else. And the big changes that I think are happening in places that we're not hearing much about because we don't grow stuff there. And there's not a lot of people that live in the North Pacific or in Siberia. So that'd be my answer.

 

Tom Daniel: 

So Eric, let me ask, is the drought over in California where they've received all this unbelievable amounts of rainfall and snow? Does that mean it's over? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

It means it's over for the next six to eight months. But the problem is in California the way that the water works, given that there's 40 million people and they lead the country in the production of 40 different fruits and vegetables plus milk, is that the demand that's on water in the West means that every winter we have to have snowpack to refill those reservoirs. So the water that's in those reservoirs didn't buy them 10 years, it bought them a year worth of water. And we'll be talking about next fall, like, hey, is this next winter going to recharge those again? 

And keep the water going? So yes the drought broke. We saw a five class improvement on the US drought monitor throughout California which is as big an improvement as you can get. They went from their deepest drought to no drought. But the reality of it is that you know we'll be talking about six to seven months of just dry weather which happens every year from late April to to October and then at that point they'll consume a lot of that water to do what they do in terms of agriculture which is amazing by the way, what they’re capable of producing there. But yeah, we'll have a conversation next fall and if they do not get snow next winter, they'll be right back into drought.

 

Sally Flis: 

Eric, how does the rate at which this all start, you mentioned it a little bit, the potential of flooding as we think about 60 feet, I think you said of snow in Tahoe melting. Like if that melts really fast, are we, are they have, do they have capacity to actually capture all that or are we going to end up losing a lot of what they thought they had gained? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Well, the reservoirs are full. They will be full, but the problem is there's more water in the mountains than they can hold in the reservoirs. So what will happen is they're going to have to let a lot of this out, which is going to continue to flood the Sacramento River, which runs right through the Sacramento Valley, which is the northern part of the Central Valley of California. That's going to cause some problems as it tries to sneak through this narrow gap in the mountains to get out to the Pacific Ocean. And then down south, the snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, that’s where we’re already surpassing historic records. The flooding has already caused problems in the Tulare Basin, and I don't expect there to be any relief from that in the coming days and weeks. So we've not yet seen California's biggest flooding problem, and you asked about the pace. If California goes over warm, and we're actually predicting warmer weather returning very soon. If that occurs here at the beginning of April, all of a sudden we're talking about a faster melt, and now all of a sudden you have everyone making decisions on water management and they're gonna let as much of that out as they can because the last thing you want to have happen is anything to structurally compromise the reservoir system because if one of them blows out or we lose a spillway or we destroy a dam all the water is gone so they're gonna actively manage that but it is frustrating because you see all the water and if I were a California resident I'd be like save it all, keep it all but we don't have the capacity. 

 

Dusty Weis: 

I was on a call just the other week with someone at UC Berkeley. And we were talking about the weather as one does. And I said to him, boy, you know, it must be a relief just to see all this water bringing an end to the drought here. And he's like, yeah, no, we would have loved to have had that spread out over a couple of years here, not all in two months. 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Yeah, so there are some places that got four years worth of snow in this winter. So they're at 400% of average. They're done. They don't want another snowflake. And the good news is it is trying to back off somewhat, but no one this year was praying for a miracle March, but the atmosphere gave one anyway. 

 

Tom Daniel:

Wow. Well, I'm going to ask you a question that I didn't plan to ask, but I was reading an article this morning in South America. It appears that they're having some weather issues down there with some of their soybean production. Some areas are having great production, but certain areas are having significant drought again. Do you have any information you can share about South America? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

Yeah, you know, when I think back on this growing season for South America, which remember is broken into two parts. They grow a first crop of beans, a second crop of corn, and then there's lots of other ag, not just corn and beans. But the first crop of soybeans went in. We added, I think, north of six and a half million acres into Brazil's production. And for the most part, it rained like mad on that crop. They were about two to three weeks later than normal getting that crop out, primarily because it was still green. Just too much water. The crop was just pushing along. 

And filling out those pods. Now that they started to harvest it, the numbers are huge, except in far southern Brazil, a place called Rio Grande do Sul, so the Rio Grande of the South, and that runs right down there in southern Brazil between Uruguay and Argentina. That's been the one area that's been too dry. Honestly though, most of February was absolutely soaking wet in central Brazil, but they're later at getting their first crop of beans out. 

Then it did go dry, they harvested them and that's why the numbers are huge. Brazil right now for the next 10 days is expected to have above average rains, which is going to push the Safrina crop, which is a little later than normal, but push that Safrina crop toward even bigger numbers. And Safrina means second or small. It's no longer small, it's still second because it goes in second, but it's not a small crop. So most are expecting a record corn crop coming out. 

Yeah, so if we if we think about what's happened in Argentina, the La Nina that we had when they started their growing season, historically means drier conditions and it delivered. But don't forget the week leading up to February 18th, they saw high temperatures that were about 105 Fahrenheit over 40 C. Then they had a frost event in some locations along the Parna River and down south. Then the next week went right back up there to temperatures in the upper nineties, lower one hundreds.

The drought was on the back side of all of that. It was in the background of all of that. Then, about 10 days ago, it rained like mad. They had some places down there that picked up 10 inches of rain in four days, and it did nothing because the ground was panhard, the crop was past being saved, the only thing that happened was to stare down at it from satellite, everything looked green all of a sudden, just because the rain brightened up the vegetation, but it's not an indication of the crop getting any better. So unfortunately, our friends at the farm down in Argentina have had one of the worst years on record in terms of how the weather impacted their total productivity. And as we approach what is now their fall, they're going to be looking at harvesting crops that are just not just below average, but substantially below average. But a lot of folks will look at South America and say, well, Brazil made up for all that. And that's ultimately going to be the tale. 

 

Dusty Weis: 

Eric, I know you spend a lot of time looking at the global picture, certainly, but just recently here, you had some global scale weather happening right in your own backyard. I know you're based in the Champaign area and Champaign, central Illinois, one of the, I want to say it was seven states that suffered damage from these severe storms and tornadoes that swept through the country over the April Fool's Day weekend here. What occurred in the weather patterns to create such a scary and severe storm event like this?  

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

It's kind of funny you ask that. It's actually everything we just talked about because what it does is it provides more energy to the jet stream. You get those winds up there at 150 to 200 miles an hour, six miles above our heads. What they did was they had to go south of all the really cold weather that's in the West where all the snow is. But over parts of Florida, there's a big ridge, which means the big high pressure cells. So it's gonna avoid that. So the jet stream went from Arizona to Lake Superior at an average speed at times of 150 to 200 miles an hour. And that sets up the development of a low pressure system which draws all that warm moisture from the Gulf. It's done it repeatedly.  And what it's doing is it's just pulling that moisture north and there's a huge contrast in the temperatures there, which means fronts, fronts trigger air to rise. You get air to rise in an unstable environment. There's all that potential energy to just be released as it goes up and you get violent rotating storms. And I'll be honest with you, Friday the 31st was a hectic day for me. I had half my neighborhood over at my house because we have a basement. They all wanted to be in that basement. I remember going outside just as the storm was approaching just to kind of keep an eye on things and to let my other neighbors know they could come over. And there was a tornado that went about four miles north of my house and I could hear it. And it actually hit a facility just north of here that provides fertilizer and seed and everything. It wasn't a Nutrien facility, but we reached out immediately to get over there and see if we could help those folks, and it just destroyed it. 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

And so yeah, that was rough. And by the way, the tornado that went by me was nothing compared to some of the ones that we saw down in Arkansas and the ones we saw in Iowa. You get kind of weary of having to wake up every day and say, here's the next bullseye, it's just going. But every time we have a lot of cold air in the West in spring, the jet stream bounces back up across the Midwest and that’s what triggers these events. 

 

Sally Flis: 

So Eric, to follow on that a little bit, we've talked about a lot of kind of bummer situations in weather and what's happened. As we close up the podcast here, what are some bright things to think about over the next six months, versus some of the challenges we've seen over the previous six months? 

 

Eric Snodgrass: 

So here's the first thing. We went into winter at 86% coverage in the United States in drought. We're now at 50%. That's huge. Soil moisture's recovering. We're gonna need that moisture later on this year. El Nino reduces hurricane risk. That's another positive sign. We don't wanna go into a season with heightened hurricane risk. El Nino, as we already talked about, tends to provide better moisture in the midsection of the country, which could eat away at the drought situation that's in the western and southern plains. I like all of that. And this year all that snowpack with those full reservoirs, if managed well this would be a good thing especially in the upper Colorado basin where there's about a hundred and forty to almost a hundred fifty percent normal snowpack on the headwaters of the Colorado River which might actually make it to the Pacific for the first time in a long time this year as all that water gets in there. So there's a lot of stuff to be you know glass half full on here with this forecast but when you're in the thick of it it's a lot of stuff to worry about.  

And I know there's a lot of folks out there that are certainly seeing the negative side of this just because of what you said Tom earlier. We're sitting on our hands waiting for the pattern to break to let us get into the fields because we all want to get aggressive with this next crop because we know what the commodity prices are doing. We understand the fertilizer markets. We understand how this commodity cycle is progressing, which makes a lot of folks really want to push hard right now.

  

Dusty Weis:

Well, Eric, I'll certainly say we're glad that you and your neighbors dodged a real close one there. It sounds like with that tornadic storm that rolled through and hoping that this next one and all the subsequent ones this spring cut us some slack as well. But thanks for helping us end on a high note here. Definitely appreciate a little bit of optimism as we go into the planting season. And here's hoping that we can get out into those fields and start working them real soon here. But Eric Snodgrass from Nutrien Ag Solutions. Thanks for joining us on this episode of the Future. Faster. 

 

Eric Snodgrass:

You bet. Thank you. 

 

Dusty Weis:

That is going to conclude this edition of The Future, Faster: The Pursuit of Sustainable Success with Nutrien Ag Solutions. New episodes arrive every other week, so make sure you subscribe in your favorite app and join us again soon. Visit futurefaster.com to learn more. 

The Future, Faster podcast is brought to you by the Nutrien Ag Solutions, with executive producer Connor Erwin and editing by Beatrice Lawrence… and it’s produced by Podcamp Media, branded podcast production for businesses. PodcampMedia.com.

For Nutrien Ag Solutions, thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis. 

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