Nov 14, 2017

Lessons Learned from the Record High U.S. Corn Yields of 2017

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The USDA surprised the market last Thursday by increasing the 2017 U.S. corn yield by 3.6 bu/ac to 175.4 bu/ac setting a new record high U.S. corn yield. Given the type of growing season we experienced in the U.S. in 2017, this is a remarkable achievement for the corn crop.

The U.S. corn crop set a record high yield in 2016 and everybody attributed it to the nearly ideal growing conditions during the entire summer. In 2017, the corn set an even higher yield record even though the conditions appeared on the surface to be less than ideal. It is impossible to pinpoint one thing that led to the surprising corn yield. Instead, I think there were a number of factors and I feel the "take home" lessons from 2017 include:

The one thing that bothers me the most from this past summer is how poorly the weekly crop conditions predicted the final yield. In 2016, they appeared to be a good predictor - very good condition ratings equaled a record high corn yield. In 2017, the condition ratings were mediocre and yet the corn yields set a new record. Unfortunately, I cannot explain the discrepancy.

Maybe the main "lesson learned" from 2017 is that we should assume a record corn yield at the start of the growing season and work backward from that assumption. In that light, next spring I am going to start off the season assuming a nationwide corn yield in the range of 174-176 bu/ac.