May 17, 2017

Preliminary 2017 U.S. Yields - Corn 169.0 bu/ac, Soybeans 49.0 bu/ac

Now that we are in the middle of May and 71% of the corn has been planted, we can start to speculate about the potential crop yields in the U.S. The somewhat slow start to planting this spring along with the concerns of excess wetness in the southern areas, will probably make it difficult to achieve crop yields equal to last year when the U.S. corn yielded 174.6 bu/ac and the soybeans yielded 52.1 bu/ac, both of which were record highs.

Due to the mildly problematic start this year, I am going to start off the season with somewhat conservative yield estimates. For the 2017 U.S. corn crop, I am going to use a nationwide yield of 169.0 bu/ac, which would be the third highest on record after 174.6 bu/ac in 2016 and 171.0 bu/ac in 2014.

For the 2017 U.S. soybean yield, I am going to use a nationwide yield of 49.0 bu/ac, which would be the second highest on record after 52.1 bu/ac in 2016.

I am a little more conservative for corn vs. soybeans because if there are some problems at the start of the growing season, it could impact corn more so than soybeans, so that is why at this point, I am a little more optimistic concerning the soybean yield as compared to the corn yield.

As a reference, the USDA is using 170.7 bu/ac for the 2017 U.S. corn crop and 48.0 bu/ac for the 2017 U.S soybean crop. The USDA's yield projections are based on "a weather adjusted trend assuming normal mid-May planting progress and summer growing season weather, estimated using the 1988-2016 time period, and includes a downward stochastic adjustment to account for asymmetric response of yield to July precipitation" (May 2017 WASDE Report). There are different trend lines that can be used and the Farm Bureau estimates the longer term trend line yield is 166.8 bu/ac for corn and 45.9 bu/ac for soybeans

This is just the first "guess" of the growing season and as we all know, these yield estimates are going to change as the growing season progresses. If there was one important "take home" lesson from the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons, it is that we need to closely watch the weekly crop condition ratings.

The 2017 corn crop will probably reach 50% pollinated between July11-15. If the condition of the 2017 U.S. corn is good by mid-July, then there is a strong likelihood that the corn yield will be very good. The month of July generally makes or breaks the corn crop in the U.S.

For soybeans, the most important time is the last week of July and the first two weeks of August. If the condition of the 2017 U.S. soybean crop is good by the second week of August, there is a strong likelihood that the soybean yield will be very good as well.