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Rural Urban Luncheon 03/12/18

Atmospheric scientist Eric Snodgrass speaks during the Rotary Rural-Urban Luncheon at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Education Center near Mattoon on Monday.

KEVIN KILHOFFER, JOURNAL GAZETTE & TIMES-COURIER

MATTOON -- Senior atmospheric scientist Eric Snodgrass discussed weather in farming regions both near to Illinois, such as the Southern Great Plains, and far, such as South America, during his talk at the Rotary Rural-Urban luncheon on Monday.

Snodgrass, who is director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana, said other farming regions in the United States and abroad, in turn, pay especially close attention to weather conditions in Illinois. He said if Illinois were a nation, it would be one of the top nations in the world in terms of crop production.

"They watch your weather constantly," Snodgrass said. "They are jealous of our soil and they know we can produce if we just get the rain from up above."

The guest speaker addressed more than 150 audience members, including many farmers and other agriculture business professionals, during the luncheon in the Education Center at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. The Mattoon and Charleston Rotary clubs have annually hosted this event for more than 25 years as a way to increase education and interaction among rural and urban populations.

Snodgrass displayed a variety of weather maps as part of his talk, including maps of farming regions in South America. He said weather conditions have been unseasonably dry in Argentina but somewhat wetter in Brazil. In response to an audience question, he said a good upcoming harvest in the rapidly expanding farmland of Brazil could partially offset a weak harvest in Argentina in regard to the world grain market.

Brazil has been creating an average of 600,000 acres of new farmland per year by converting large sections of the Amazon rain forest to grow corn, soybeans and cotton, Snodgrass said. Consequently, he said Brazil could have a weak harvest and it would still be one of their best harvests ever. He added that China's increasing purchases of soybeans is helping fuel demand for soybeans from Brazil and elsewhere.

Closer to Illinois, Snodgrass said he has been monitoring how recent weather conditions might affect the trend in the last few years of warmer weather enabling corn production to expand in the Dakotas.

In addition, Snodgrass said he has been monitoring drought conditions in Kansas, western Oklahoma and northern Texas. He said some sections of the Southern Great Plains have not received any measurable rainfall since October.

Snodgrass said he is concerned that recent weather conditions in the Southern Great Plains are similar to those that preceded droughts in 1988 and 2012 in Central Illinois. He said drought conditions historically tend to move north and east.

"We are going to have to keep a very, very close eye on that," Snodgrass said. He cautioned that it is too soon to forecast whether the Southern Great Plains will remain in drought conditions and whether Central Illinois might experience similar conditions.

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