Economic Tidbits

This Year’s Yield Potential

A Tidbits story last week regarding planted acres noted crop conditions for corn and soybeans in Nebraska in early July were worse than last year at the same time. As of July 2, corn conditions rated as good or excellent were 49 percent and soybeans 42 percent. In comparison, last year good or excellent conditions were 62 percent and 61 percent for corn and soybeans, respectively. This week Tidbits digs deeper into this year’s crop conditions and what they might mean for yields and production.

Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the percent of corn and soybeans rated in good or excellent condition this year compared to the previous five years. Conditions this year, after trending lower through June, have improved with the recent spurt of rains. As of July 9, week 27 of the year, 62 percent of corn and 55 percent of soybeans were rated good or excellent, an increase of 13 percentage points for both crops in one week. Yet, while improved, conditions remain worse than typically seen for mid-July. Between 2018-2022, on average, 75 percent of corn and 76 percent of soybeans were in good or excellent condition for week 27. 

FIGURE 1. CORN ACRES RATED GOOD OR EXCELLENT, 2018-2023

Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service

FIGURE 2. SOYBEAN ACRES RATED GOOD OR EXCELLENT, 2018-2023

Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service

What might current crop conditions portend for this year’s yields and production? One must go back to 2012 to find crops rated in worse condition compared to this year. In week 27 of that year, 47 percent of corn was rated in good or excellent condition and just 41 percent of soybeans. Consequently, average corn yield in 2012 was down 11.3 percent compared to the prior year and the soybean yield was off 23 percent. Last year’s good or excellent ratings were the second worst since 2012. And yields last year also suffered. The average corn yield, 176 bushels per acre, was down 9.3 percent and the average soybean yield, 52 bushels, down 17 percent. For context, the average corn yield between 2018-2022 was 184.8 bushels and the average soybean yield was 57.7 bushels.

Thus, current crop conditions do not bode well for the state’s crop producers. If the past 12 years are any guide, yields and production will again be below par. However, this is Nebraska, and anything can happen. Last year conditions continued to worsen throughout the remainder of the growing season. Perhaps the recent bout of wet weather will set the stage for timely moisture for the remainder of this year’s growing season. After all, Ken Dewey, professor emeritus of climatology at the University of Nebraska, once commented that only Siberia has more extreme weather than Nebraska.

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