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Corn yields: Average by extremes

Jeff Caldwell Updated: 07/26/2013 @ 3:14pm Agricultural content creator and marketer.

Though some parts of the country are in dire need of moisture -- and crop conditions are showing major pains on that account -- one private forecaster and weather watcher has this year's U.S. corn crop headed toward a higher average yield than earlier estimates.

Officials with the Bethesda, Maryland-based Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Wednesday released information showing, though there remains quite a bit of potential yield reduction in parts of the country moving forward, a nationwide corn yield of 159.5 bushels per acre, up from USDA's latest guess of 157 bushels per and about 1% above trend.

That number is reached by the convergence of extremes, though. There's a lot of variation in conditions from West to East, and while the latter area is doing well, much of the former is really hurting.

"Poor vegetative health conditions and moisture deficits during pollination focus the current risk for below-trend corn yields on Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, while extremely good prospects help to offset these impacts and focus on South Dakota, the eastern Delta, eastern Ohio Valley, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic due to a lack of heat," according to CWG's report released Wednesday. "Record yield potential is possible in much of the Eastern fringe acreage. Yield potential was also held a bit below trend in North Dakota and Wisconsin based on the above average risk for frost impacts to late-maturing corn this season."

Chart showing CWG's corn yield estimates by state that make up its 159.5-bushels-per-acre average yield projection for this year's U.S. crop. (Chart courtesy CWG.)

First, some of the bad: Agriculture.com Marketing Talk frequent contributor ne 50, who farms in the lower Republican River valley in Nebraska, says the moisture circumstances are starting to turn extreme in the area where irrigation water is restricted.

"In the last month in this area we have had a total of .19 rain at my homeplace. We are running well behind last year or normal. Last year wasn't great either -- drought brought us 18- to 65-bushel dryland corn," he says. "This year the Natural Resources Districts have imposed a 10.5-inch irrigation cap (we lose 3 inches for every inch over 10.5 we pump over our five-year allocation of 9 per year). As of last night, I have fields that have 4.8 and 5.3 inches left to pump. At this rate, the irrigation will be shut down after another month. Much too soon to raise trendline corn crops."

Now, for the other end of the extreme: Marketing Talk senior contributor buckfarmer says things are drastically different in his area, and he's got a much different frame of mind entering the second half of summer.

"I'm in line for a personal record here in southern Ohio," he says. "Probably have enough soil moisture to make it. If we don't have some sort of weather disaster in the next month, I'm pretty optimistic."

Moving forward, CWG forecasters see a lot of room for this week's outlook to change. And just like the conditions behind this week's corn crop yield estimate, the direction that yield potential moves varies greatly. "There of course remains room for adjustment based on conditions during the balance of the growing season, with the larger risks to the downside rather than the upside. Based on the forecast through early August, Iowa and Minnesota likely have some of the greatest potential for variability," according to CWG. "If projected rains do occur, national yield potential could still lift slightly higher, given the lack of any significant heat. However, there is still significant downside risk to national yields (perhaps 3 to 7 bushels per acre) as well if rains end up more limited."


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