Ag Weather Forum

Missouri Drought Raises Yield Questions

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Extreme drought in Missouri suggests a possible challenge to predictions of record corn yields in 2018. (NDMC graphic)

Calls for crop yield and production are starting, noted by the FC Stone projection on Aug. 1 for U.S. corn and soybean production. A new corn yield record is projected in the FC Stone number, at just over 178 bushels an acre. Is this robust yield possible? Certainly. However, if this yield level is attained, it also appears that this kind of a yield may be the first time in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor that a new record yield is posted when at least a portion of the Midwest has level 3 (extreme) drought in effect.

I make this point because, since the second week of July, northern Missouri has been in extreme drought. This part of the western Midwest is definitely in the "have not" category when it comes to rainfall during the 2018 growing season. Missouri is certainly a contributor to the corn total, with around 12 percent of the U.S. total 14.6 billion bushels production in 2017.

Now to the details: In record-production years of 2003, 2004, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017, there is only one production year in that six-year collection -- 2009 -- when any portion of the Midwest had extreme drought in effect in late July-early August. That year was 2009, when northern Wisconsin went into extreme drought -- but, in early August, after corn pollination and at least a portion of the fill stage had taken place. In this array, some notable benchmarks were posted in corn production. The 2004 crop year saw U.S. corn yield crack 160 bushels an acre for the first time. In 2009, the national average yield went past 165 bushels per acre. That held until 2014, when the national yield hit 171 bushels per acre, then was surpassed by the 174.6 bushels per acre in 2016, and the 2017 tally of 176.6 bushels per acre.

So, to recap: U.S. corn production has made some big advances, and it seems like the corn crop can take all kinds of a licking and keep on ticking to new records. But, if that standard is reached, it will be in spite of conditions which heretofore have not been part of the equation, at least in the past near-20 years.


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