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Tallying up 1988 vs. 2012 crops

Jeff Caldwell 10/03/2012 @ 2:45pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The growing season's drawn to a close in the Corn Belt and the combines are barreling through the corn and soybean crops at a record pace. So now that the crop year's nearing its close, 2 Corn Belt ag economists ask: "How bad was the 2012 growing season?"

Throughout the growing season, farmers, market analysts and agronomists have compared 2012 to the drought-ravaged year of 1988, when corn yields were almost 33 bushels/acre below trend. Looking at this year's growing conditions compared to 1988, the yield shortfall will likely fall in a similar range this year.

"For corn, the difference between actual (or forecast) yields is 32.8 bushels for 1988 and 35.6 bushels for 2012. The difference in the magnitudes of the yield shortfalls is consistent with the observed weather patterns in those two years," according to a report from University of Illinois ag economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good. "Most analysts, including the authors, however, calculate the trend yield for 2012 to be above the unconditional linear trend of 158.4. Based on a 2012 trend yield of 161 bushels, the forecast yield is 38.2 bushels below trend, 5.4 bushels larger than in 1988, a difference even more consistent with the differences in weather patterns."

The yield shortfall's not as clear-cut with soybeans this year compared to 1988. Based on trend yields leading up to this year and compared to 1988, Irwin and Good expect yields to be closer to 35 bushels/acre, higher than the ultimate output of just shy of 33 bushels/acre in 1988.

"For soybeans, the difference between actual (or forecast) yields is 5.2 bushels for 1988 and 7.7 bushels for 2012. The difference in the magnitudes of the yield shortfalls is not consistent with the observed weather patterns in those two years. Additionally, most analysts, including the authors, calculate the trend yield for 2012 to be slightly above the unconditional linear trend of 43 bushels," according to Irwin and Good's report. "Based on a 2012 trend yield of 43.5 bushels, the forecast yield is 8.2 bushels below trend, 3 bushels larger than in 1988. Again the larger yield shortfall in 2012 appears to be inconsistent with weather patterns in the two years."

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