How big will corn yields be?

How big will corn yields be?

Most crop experts are now agreeing that Minnesota may be the “sweet spot” for 2015 crop yields, especially for corn yields. In the last USDA Crop Report on August 12, the Minnesota corn yield was projected at a record level of 184 bushels per acre. The previous record corn yield in Minnesota was 177 bushels per acre in 2010, and most experts feel that the statewide average corn yield will exceed that total in 2015. Other recent statewide average corn yields are 158 bushels per acre in 2014, 160 bushels per acre in 2013, 165 bushels per acre in 2012, and 156 bushels per acre in 2011. The next USDA Crop Report will be released on September 11.

Interestingly, there has been quite a range in the estimated 2015 Minnesota corn yields by private analysts, ranging from about 175 to 187 bushels per acre; however, all of the estimates are well above final statewide averages from 2011-2014. Historically, Minnesota final average corn yields tend to decline a bit as harvest goes on, due to average corn yields in Central and Northern being lower than anticipated. 2015 may be somewhat different than other years, as very favorable growing conditions have existed throughout the entire State during most of the growing season. There were some portions of Southeast and Southwest Minnesota that did get quite dry in early August, before significant rainfall was received, which could lower the final corn yields a bit compared to estimates, in some areas.

The last USDA Crop Report on August 12 projected an average corn yield of 183 bushels per acre in Iowa for 2015. This is very consistent with where many of the private analysts are estimating Iowa’s 2015 corn yield. Other recent statewide average corn yields in Iowa are 178 bushels per acre in 2014, 165 bushels per acre in 2013, 137 bushels per acre in the drought-year of 2012, and 172 bushels per acre in 2011. After achieving record-level corn yields in 2014, States such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are projected to have corn yields that are well below average in 2015.

The August 12 USDA Crop Report was based on crop conditions as of August 1, and the next Crop Report on September 11 will be based on conditions as of September 1. In the August 12 Report, USDA projected a national average corn yield of 168.8 bushels per acre, which would be the second highest average corn yield in U.S. history, trailing only the record corn yield of 171 bushels per acre in 2014. USDA is currently estimating total 2015 U.S. corn production at near 13.7 billion bushels, which would be the third highest in history, and compares to last year’s record U.S. corn production of 14.2 billion bushels. Many private analysts feel that the USDA estimates for both the national average corn yield and total 2015 U.S. corn production are a bit high, given the poor early and mid-season growing conditions in the Eastern and Southern Corn Belt.

One of the biggest challenges with the Minnesota corn crop is usually getting the crop mature before the first killing frost. Average first frost dates range from around September 20 in the northern areas of the State to around October 15 in Southeast Minnesota. In 2014, an early frost in mid-September in portions of Southern Minnesota caused considerable damage to the corn and soybean crops. The good news is that crop development is much more advanced in the 2015 crop year, as compared to 2014.

Corn is considered to have reached physiological maturity once it is in the “black layer” stage. Some of the earlier planted corn in Southern Minnesota is likely to reach this stage by September 10-15, while later planted corn, and corn in other areas of the State, may be a week or two later. The concern for an early frost does not appear to be as great in 2015, as compared to 2014 and 2013, when corn was planted much later than this year, and growing conditions were much less favorable. 

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