Fundamentally Speaking

2024 U.S. Corn Crop Off to One of Its Best Starts in Years

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

This week the USDA released its first national corn condition report for the 2024 season using our usual ratings system we weight the crop based on the percent in each category and assign that category a factor of 2 for very poor, 4 for poor, 6 for fair, 8 for good, and 10 for excellent and then sum the results.

This graph plots the first corn crop rating of each year from 1986 to 2024 on the left-hand axis while on the right-hand axis is the percent that the final corn yield of each season deviated from the 1986-2023 trend.

Also reported in the yellow boxes is the date of the first crop report which is usually in late May or early June.

This year's initial corn rating is 770 and that is well above the 1986-2024 average of 745 and is the highest initial corn rating since 2018.

In fact, this is only the tenth time since the USDA started issuing national corn ratings in 1986 that the figure has been at 770 or higher.

Of course, it is still early and to be truthful the correlation between the first crop rating and the percentage that corn yields deviate from the long-term trend is only 31%.

Still, we were curious to see what similar years did in terms of the first crop rating and when the initial report was released.

One good thing is that except for 2012 and 1991, all other eight years of a 770 or higher first crop rating saw above trend yields.

2012 was a severe drought season and the high first rating was probably due to the crop getting in the ground very early as the first USDA condition report was issued May 20 of that season which, other than 2010, is the second earliest ever due to dry soils during plantings.

1991 actually had the highest first rating ever at 794, but as I recall weather really started to deteriorate that year at the beginning of July.

Regarding the date of the first crop report issued, the earlier the crop is planted and emerged, the earlier the condition report.

From 1986 to this year the average date of the first USDA report has been May 29 or 29 days past May 1, so this year's first report issued on June 2 is 33 days past May 1, but that is just under the five-year average of 32.

In recent seasons, 2019 was a very late year with the first report issued June 9 (40 days past May 1) and that had a low first rating of 710 with a final yield 2.7% below trend

2022 was 36 days past May 1 with a first rating of 760 and a final yield 2.6% below trend.

The latest year was 1995 with the first report issued June 18 of that season (49 days past May 1) with a first rating of 720 and final yields 9.3% below trend, and in the flood year of 1993 with the first rating 37 days past May 1 with an initial crop rating of 688 and final yields 16.9% below trend.

Our take is that this year's crop was seeded at a normal pace with some areas perhaps too wet but on other hand it appears that the soil moisture profile in U.S. corn area is in about the best shape it's been in since 2020.

We don't know what Mother Nature has in store for the rest of the summer but having the crop off to a decent start goes a good way to helping assure that USDA's record yield forecast of 181 bushels per acre is at least attained if not exceeded.


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