Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Surprised by the 2017 US Corn Yields

Several articles have been written recently about the surprising high yield for US corn this year. But with the right data, tools, and analysis, the results were foreseeable.

In 2016, we saw record high yields, which many attributed to ideal growing conditions throughout the summer. Because early-season conditions in 2017 were less than ideal, many predicted lower yields this year. While the assumption is certainly logical on the surface, there are some key factors that needed to be analyzed.

Based on the reports from the Geosys crop analysts, there were three key factors that attributed to the success this growing season.

  1. Genetics and agronomic practices continue to improve

Every year, seed producers introduce stronger genetics into the field. Improved corn genetics help the crop withstand adverse conditions that would have crippled yield in the past. This, coupled with improvements in agronomic practices – such as increased adoption of low- or no-till – has led to a yearly improvement of 1.8 to 2.0 bu/ac, up from the historical increase of 1.5 bu/ac.

  1. Weather during crucial reproductive periods is key

To have a negative impact on the corn crop, there needs to be an extended period of hot and dry weather during key reproductive periods, such as pollination and early grain filling. Due to delayed plantings, the critical period was slightly shifted later in 2017, during which improved conditions were observed this year.

  1. Cool early August temperatures are beneficial

Cool temperatures in early August are very beneficial, especially overnight temperatures. When the plant rests at night, it reduces the plant’s water requirement, thus reducing any potential moisture stress. As the figure shows, we observed temperatures two to three degrees cooler than average in late July/early August.

The Agriquest® global monitoring tool gave our customers access to scientific-grade data throughout the season that shed light on what was actually taking place in the fields across the main states of the corn belt. This was especially helpful in evaluating the last two factors on the above list.

Through our proprietary tool, we were able to anticipate the yield evolution – the increase of forecast yield in the August (to 169.5 bu/ac), September (169.9 bu/ac) and October (171.8 bu/ac) Crop Reports.

You can see some of the details of our 2017 US Corn Analysis here.