Fundamentally Speaking

2021 Just Barely Record Corn Yield Year

Joel Karlin
By  Joel Karlin , DTN Contributing Analyst
Chart by Joel Karlin, DTN Contributing Analyst

Despite growing conditions far from ideal in many key producing regions of the country, according to the November 2021 crop production report the U.S. corn yield this season was a record 177.0 bushels per acre (bpa), surpassing the prior peak of 176.6 bpa set back in 2017.

Next month the USDA will issue its final crop report for the year and we'll see if this yield is maintained, increased, or perhaps lowered but right now it is an all-time high.

Even with that information, 2021 was no blockbuster growing season as seen in this graphic that shows the U.S. corn yield in bpa on the left-hand axis vs. the percent that yields from 1990 to 2021 deviated from their 32-year trend on the right-hand axis.

The darker blue columns (of which there are nine since 1990) are those years in which the U.S. corn yield was a record and the numbers contained within the yellow squares are how many of the top 18 growing states set individual record high state corn yields.

This year's yield is actually just barely above trend which we calculate at 176.9 bpa and may explain why only five of the top 18 states set record yields this season.

The only other year where a record national yield was set that was also just barely above trend was in 2003 where the 142.2 bpa yield was a mere 0.9% above trend with just 4 of the top 18 states setting a new high-water mark for yields.

Contrast this to years where we blew the top off the record such as 1992 with the final yield a whopping 10.6% above trend with 11 of the 18 states setting new highs, or 2004 with the final yield 12.2% above trend with 13 of the 18 states setting record or even most recently as 2009 with the final yield 7.5% above trend and 10 of the 18 states having new highs.

A good analogy may be baseball where a homerun that just barely clears the fence is as good as a mammoth 500 foot shot as they all count the same in the record books.


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