Fundamentally Speaking

USDA Corn Data Points to Lowest Ear Weights Since 2015

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

The USDA September crop production report has come and gone, and the data was seen as somewhat negative given pre-report expectations.

The 2023 U.S. corn yield came in at 173.8 bushels per acre (bpa) which was down from the 175.1 bpa given in August, though above the average trade guess of 173.8 and higher than last year's 173.3.

Almost surprising is that corn yields have held up so well given crop ratings around Labor Day, the lowest since 2012.

The jury is still out however as USDA will release subsequent reports next month, in November, with the annual figures due out in January 2024.

There has been a lot of talk that the past month from mid-August to mid-September, which has featured above normal temperatures and rather sparce rainfall over much of the Corn Belt, has had an adverse impact on grain fill that could result in lower than usual corn ear weights.

Note that the September report did include objective field surveys from USDA enumerators in addition to the results from the farmer-based surveys and data from remotely sensed satellites that formed the basis of the August numbers.

On the other hand, the October and November reports will also include lab analysis measuring kernel weights that will give a more accurate assessment of both state and national corn yields.

USDA-NASS did provide a slide in their crop production presentation showing the September 2023 Corn Objective Yield measuring ears per acre and yield for a 10-state region.

As we have done in the past, this graph shows the 10-state objective corn ear population in ears/acre on the left-hand axis vs. the implied ear weight in lbs/ear on the right-hand axis.

The 10-state weighted yield is also reported in the yellow rectangles.

The ten states are IL, IN, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, OH, SD and WI.

The chart shows figures that match up very well with the USDA as their crop production report says the number of ears in the 10-state region was 29,400; we measure 29,413.

The weighted ten state yield is 178.5 bpa which is what we have also.

The 178.5 bpa yield is based in part on the fact that the 29,400-ear population is the highest ever but what is not included is the implied 10-state ear weight which we calculate to be 0.3398 pounds per ear which, based on our work, would be the lowest since 0.3358 lbs/ear back in 2015.

Given the rapid dry down of this year's corn crop, this seems entirely reasonable so it will be interesting to see if the USDA lab results confirm this in subsequent reports.


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