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University of Nebraska Analysis: Above-Average Yields, But No Record Midwestern Yields Likely

Lots of bright spots, but trouble in others means no record yield likely.

If you’re a central Illinois farmer, your bins may be bulging after this fall’s corn harvest. If you’re a dryland southeastern Nebraska farmer, though, you might have more storage space this year than you need.

That’s because end-of-season corn grain yield forecasts made by University of Nebraska researchers suggest above-average yields in areas like central Illinois and yields lower than USDA’s most recent yield projection for areas like dryland southeastern Nebraska. The researchers expect overall above-average yields in an eight-state Midwestern region, but not a record.

Yield Simulation Model
The U of N researchers simulated 41 locations of 2016 end-of-season corn yield and real-time crop state. States that included sites in:
• Illinois
• Indiana
• Kansas
• Michigan
• Minnesota
• Missouri
• Nebraska
• Ohio

The researchers simulated yields using the UNL Hybrid-Maize model in collaboration with faculty and Extension educators from 10 universities. At the time these end-of-season forecasts were made (on September 21), physiological maturity (black layer) had been reached at all sites, except for two sites in western Nebraska, one in North Dakota, and another in Michigan.  

The crop season ended with above-average temperature across the entire region and above-average rainfall in the central and eastern regions of the Corn Belt. In general, crops did not experience a water deficit during the last phase of the grain-filling period. Here’s what the yield simulation showed.

End-of-season forecasted irrigated yields near or slightly above average (from -11% to +14%). The two sites in western Nebraska where corn had not already matured (Alliance and North Platte) will exhibit yields above or near average depending on temperatures in the next few days.

Dryland yields show near-average yields at 21 sites. These sites are located mainly in the southern and eastern regions of the Corn Belt and also in northwestern Iowa (Kanawha and Nashua) southeastern Minnesota (Waseca), and northern Illinois (Freeport).

The researchers expect above-average yields at 11 of the dryland locations:
• Western and central Nebraska (North Platte, Holdrege, and McCook)
• Central-east and northeastern Nebraska (Mead and Concord) and southwestern Iowa
• Northwestern Missouri (Lewis and St. Joseph)
• Eastern North Dakota (Dazey)
• Western Minnesota (Eldred and Lamberton)
• Central Illinois (Peoria)

Meanwhile, the researchers forecast below-average yield at five sites:
* Southeastern Nebraska (Clay Center and Beatrice)
* A southeast-northwest transect in Iowa (Crawfordsville, Ames, and Sutherland).

State-level and Regional Forecast Corn Yields

The U of N researchers upscaled yield forecasts to state level using the spatial framework of the Global Yield Gap Atlas, which is based on agro-climatic zones and distribution of corn harvested area. Here are highlights of where forecasted 2016 yields fall:
• Well above average (10% or more) for dryland corn in Nebraska and Minnesota
• Above average (from 3% to 9%) for dryland corn in Illinois and Kansas, and irrigated corn in Nebraska and Kansas
• Near-average for dryland corn in Indiana and Missouri
• Below-average (from -3% to -4%) for dryland corn in Iowa and Ohio.

Above-Average Yields, But No Record
Regional average yield, based on dryland and irrigated corn findings in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, is forecast to be 169 bushels per acre. This forecast is 5% above the historical (2006-2015) regional average yield, but well below the historical yield record. Hence, the corn yield estimate is lower that the USDA-NASS most recent forecasted yield of 174.4 bushels per acre nationwide.

These forecasts do not take into consideration problems with stand emergence, hail/flooding damage, replanting situations, disease, or nitrate leaching. In these fields, actual yields will be lower than estimates provided here. A good example is Minnesota, where fields with excellent yield potential on September 21 are now drowning due to last week’s rampant rainfall ranging from 4 to 14 inches.

The researchers remind farmers that yield forecasts are not field-specific. Instead, they represent an estimate of average on-farm yield for a given location and surrounding area in absence of the yield-reducing factors mentioned here.

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