Climate and agricultural conditions

Agriculture

Climate and agricultural conditions

Published: 28 June 2019

Important Issues

  • El Nino is still present but may change to neutral in coming winter months and summer of 2019/20. Probable late start to summer rain again. More favourable for Winter Rainfall Regions in next months.

1. Current conditions

Frost only started to occur in the second week but especially in the last two weeks of June 2019 over the central to southern interior. Drought conditions remains dominant in the western to south western and north western parts of the country as well as parts of Namibia. The cold conditions and low quantity and quality of natural rangeland can take a severe toll on the condition of animals in these drought stricken areas. The central to eastern parts of the country are experiencing better grazing conditions as a result of good falls of rain before the winter and farmers were also able to plant winter grazing crops like oats.

Summer grain farmers started to harvest the maize crop in the central to western areas but the process is still very slow due to the lack of frost and very late plantings. Most of the summer crops in the eastern production areas like Mpumalanga are however already harvested. Average yields were recorded in most areas although there were pockets of below average yields in some areas like Standerton and adjacent areas.

Most of the winter crops are planted in time or a bit later than normal in the Western Cape. Regular rainfall events since planting ensured that conditions are relative favourable up until now but the crucial stages will be in September and October.

Levels of storage dams in both the Summer and Winter Rainfall Areas are in a better state compared to last season the same time. There is however reason for concern about the level of the Clanwilliam dam that is currently about 13% of capacity compared to the 30% of last year the same time. The rainy season is however in progress and will hopefully improve the level.  

2. El Nino and Indian Ocean

Sea surface temperatures remain at weak El Nino levels with temperatures of the Nino-areas ranging between 0.1˚C and 1.0˚C warmer than average. There are however indications of cooling to start from deeper layers in the ocean but it is still too early to give more accurate indications for the summer season. It is however very likely that it may change to neutral conditions towards spring and early summer. 

Warming of the western Indian Ocean resulted in the development of a positive Indian Ocean Dipole Index (IOD). This is not good news for the next months for the Summer Rainfall Area, especially for spring and early summer rainfall. Forecasts however showing a weakening towards November. 

3. Expected rainfall and temperature conditions

3.1 Summer Rainfall Areas

3.1.1. Rainfall

The winter period is traditionally very dry and current outlooks also indicate a low probability for winter rainfall. With the development of a positive IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole) for the next months can it have a negative effect on the probabilities for rain in spring and early summer. The outlook that favours a more neutral state of ENSO (away from current weak El Nino levels) can favour mid to late summer rainfall but also reduces the chances for spring and early summer rain.

3.2 Winter Rainfall Areas

Cold fronts started to reach the south western Cape on a more regular basis since the second part of May. With the weak El Nino present is it a positive signal for rain for the Winter Rainfall Region. Short term forecasts indicate a relative high probability for rain for the rest of June and most of July. It is very possible that September will experience a dry spell but it is too early to attach to much value to forecasts for September and October.     

3.3 Namibia

It is likely that very little rain will occur for the next months and with a possible late start of the summer rainfall season of 2019/20.

4. Summary and conclusions

  • The drought in the western parts of the country as well as parts of Namibia continues but it seems that a turning point was reached over the central to eastern parts of the country.
  • Prospects for rain for the Winter Rainfall Region is positive for at least the rest of June and July but a dry spell in September is possible.
  • El Nino is still present but there are indications that it will most probably weaken during winter to become at least neutral for the summer of 2019/20.

5. Disclaimer
The information in this report is used at own risk and the author/Santam or any other person/institution mentioned in this report do not take any responsibility for accuracy or applicability/interpretation of the information mentioned in this report.