Climate and agricultural conditions

Agriculture

Climate and agricultural conditions

Published: 22 August 2017

Important Issues

  • The expected El Niño will most likely not happen
  1. Current conditions

Dry and windy conditions started to occur more frequently over most of the Summer Rainfall Area with the exception of the east coast areas where some rain occured.  Wild fires  are also increasing over the Summer Rainfall Area as a result of the dry and windy conditions with higher temperatures that also started to occur.   

The water situation in the Western Cape remains critical with most of the important dams far below critical levels. Although light falls of rain occurred frequently in the past weeks, was it not sufficient to recharge dam levels to the required capacity. Falls of up to 30mm occurred in some areas during the period between 14-16 August and it can help to stabilise conditions somewhat but not near enough to the amount of rainfall that is required.     

The condition of winter wheat is relative favourable in the Western Cape with regular smaller amounts of rain that occured but may deteriorate once temperatures increase and higher water requirements from a higher leave area of plants. The condition  of dry land winter wheat in the Free State remains poor with low soil water levels and an unfavourable rainfall outlook.  There is a high risk for frost damage to wheat and other winter crops as a result of the relative warm winter that stimulated development to growth stages that are very sensitive to late cold spells.  Early plantings of wheat is especially at risk.       

  1. El Niño and the Indian Ocean

The probability for El Niño conditions have now decreased to about 20% for the 2017/18 season. There is now an about 60% probability for neutral conditions and a 20% probability for La Niña conditions. Some models indicate more or less the same pattern as in 2016/17 with a chance of weak La Niña -conditions in mid- to late summer.

Indian Ocean temperatures are also important and it also seemed to be more in the range of average temperatures for the next months with a slight chance of a positive Indian Ocean Dipole index (warmer water towards the African coastline, increasing the risk for tropical cyclones in summer). Thus: There is currently no strong signal for extremes in both the Pacific (Niño-areas) and Indian Ocean.   

3. Expected rainfall conditions

3.1 Summer Rainfall Areas

Very little rain is expected for the spring months over most of the Summer Rainfall Area with the exception of the north eastern coastal and adjacent parts. The expected neutral conditions in both the Pacific (Niño areas) and Indian Ocean improved the prospects for rain in the mid- to late summer, especially the central to eastern areas.

 3.2 Winter Rainfall Areas

Short to medium term forecasts still indicate rain to come in the next weeks but currently it seems that only light falls is expected. The light falls of rain can be positive for wheat production but not for recharge of dams to capacity.

4. Summary

  • Neutral conditions are expected in the Central Pacific (no El Niño or La Niña) as well as the Indian Ocean for coming months and summer season.
  • The probability for rain in the Western Cape started to decline as a result of being in the last part of the rainy season and although the condition of grazing and winter crops are still relatively good, are prospects for recharge of dam levels unfavourable.
  • With more certainty about the absence of an El Niño -event now are prospects favourable for rain in the critical summer months (December to March) in the Summer Rainfall Area.  It is an indication of possible favourable production conditions and good yields for 2017/18 for summer crops that can increase the pressure on commodity prices.        

 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.