"El Niño which is a warming of the eastern tropical pacific waters results in more regular rains over the Missouri region and milder temperatures in the summer and its better for agriculture," said MU professor of Atmospheric Science Anthony Lupo.
When researching El Niño and La Niña patterns, University of Missouri scientists needed to know what crops were most vulnerable to the cycles in order to get the most accurate results.
"We're looking at corn, wheat and soybeans. All of these crops show some susceptibility to drought but corn being the most because of it's shallower root system," said Lupo.
El Niño years seemed to give corn the greater yield versus La Niña.
"Those summers tend to be more milder and you get more regular years. With La Niña years they tend to be hotter and the rains come less regularly," said Lupo.
To support these findings, corn yields also show the same evidence during transtions between the cycles.
"When the summers transitioning into El Niño, the crop yield for corn is higher and then when its transitioning to La Niña the crop yield is lower just because El Niño has milder temperatures, regular precipitation and that's better for corn," said MU Atmospheric Science Student Jessica Donovan.
The past decade has shown extremes from both cycles.
"By looking at the summer of 2004, we had an El Niño year, very good crop, regular rains. In 2012 we had the disastrous summer drought connected to La Niña and technology wasn't enough to save the corn crop," said Lupo.
Missouri being under the influence of El Niño doesn't automatically mean that it's going to lead to a high crop yield but there is a general agreement in what to expect which will help further research.
"Record yields have occured during El Niños but we've got some record yields that didn't occur during El Niños. The relationship is that generally it produces more rainfall so the water is more plentifull, the crop doesn't get stressed and the growing conditions are more favorable," said Bob Kelly of the MU Extenstion Agriculture Business.
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