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Iowa’s corn yields might be overshadowed by Illinois this year

By Jared Strong 

Iowa farmers are projected to harvest about 200 bushels of corn per acre this year on average — a yield potentially less than Illinois’ 210, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture predictions.

Still, Iowa would lead the nation in overall production, given its superior number of acres harvested for grain. In Iowa, that is expected to be about 12.5 million, compared with Illinois’ 10.6 million acres.

If the yield projections hold true, Iowa’s overall production will still be about 12% higher than Illinois.

Those predictions are contained in the USDA’s monthly crop production outlook, published Wednesday. About 23% of Iowa’s corn crop had been harvested as of Sunday. About 27% of Illinois’ crop had been harvested.

The report held Iowa’s expected corn yields steady from September but is smaller than the August report’s expectations of 205 bushels per acre, which would match last year’s record average corn yield for the state.

Much of Iowa’s crops have suffered this year because of widespread drought. More than half of the state is in varying drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In Illinois, about a 10th of the state is suffering drought, and none is as severe as what Iowa has.

Illinois yields could match 2018 record

If Illinois’ projection this year comes to fruition, it would match its record-high yields of 2018. Illinois yields have beaten Iowa’s in seven of the past 20 years, according to USDA data. However, the last time the state’s overall corn production bested Iowa was in 1993, when widespread flooding cut Iowa’s production by about half.

For Illinois to again beat Iowa in total production, there would need to be a sizeable shift in the number of acres of corn in the states.

“It is conceivable,” said Mark Licht, an Iowa State University Extension cropping systems specialist who studies yield trends. But: “It is not likely because Iowa is set up to incentivize corn production because of the number of ethanol plants and the demand for livestock/poultry feed.”

The USDA report on Wednesday also held a slightly dimmer view of Iowa’s soybean production. It forecasts an average yield of 58 soybean bushels per acre, down one bushel from September. That projection would again place Iowa second to Illinois in soybean production — about 581 million bushels to about 685 million bushels.

Illinois’ soybean yields are projected to average 64 bushels per acre compared with Iowa’s 58, and Illinois has about 5% more acres of soybean crop.

Illinois has historically been a bigger producer of soybeans, according to Licht’s analysis of USDA data. Iowa first produced more in 1980 and routinely outproduced Illinois from 1994 to 2012, he said. Since then, Iowa has only produced more soybeans than Illinois one year, in 2015.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of the States Newsroom, a network of similar news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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