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Whopping Yields: Too Good to be True?

It isn’t over until it’s over, but USDA data and projections point to record yields in many states.

National corn yields are projected to hit 181.3 bu/acre., up 2.9 bu. from the August estimate. The result is a projected 14.8 billion bushel crop for 2018, which is below 2016’s record but ahead of 2017 yield. Ten states (designated by the # sign on the map below and including Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota) are pegged to have record yields.

Rain has made grain: Both ears per acre and implied ear weight are exceptional. Production outstripped the highest industry expectation by 200 million bushels.

corn yield September 1 2018Producers with reasonable costs whose yields are on or above the average should be able to “bushel through” this year’s tight margins, especially with the help of the Market Facilitation Program. Soybean yields also have been bumped higher to a record 52.8 bu./acre, 1.2 bu. above August and 3.7 bu. or 7.5 percent higher than last year. The result would be record soybean production of 4.69 billion bu., up from the August projection of 4.39 billion. Like corn, 10 states (including Iowa and Nebraska) will see record yields, USDA projects. 

soybean yield September 1 2018Progress and Condition

The yield estimates reflect crop condition at this point in the crop year. USDA rated the corn crop one point better in the good/excellent categories, at 68 percent, and stable in the bottom two. Nebraska is top in our service area at 82 percent in the top categories, followed by Iowa (73 percent), South Dakota (64 percent) and Kansas at just 46 percent.

In the 18 reporting states, corn is reported:


86 percent

Average 75 percent


35 percent

Average 21 percent


5 percent

Average 3 percent

All but one of the states we serve is on or ahead of average for harvest. Nebraska, at 43 percent harvested, lags its average by six points.

corn progress and condition

Soybeans remain ahead of average as well, with 31 percent dropping leaves compared with 19 percent average.

Condition improved two points from last week on the top end of the scale, to 68 percent, and one point on the bottom end, at 10 percent poor/very poor. 

soybean progress and condition

Given the stage of the crop and its moisture requirements, most of Iowa and nearby states have excess moisture, though there is still time for things to dry down before harvest.

corn moisture index sept 8 2018

The Florence Factor

While North Carolina is not a corn or soybean powerhouse, it is a feed-deficit state, so any crop losses related to Hurricane Florence there can ripple back up the transport chain. Soybeans are planted in all 100 counties in the state, from the mountains to the sea – totaling 1.6 million acres in an average year. USDA forecasts 1.59 million to be harvested this year. However, most are grown in the eastern third of the state.

florence factor

Corn’s pattern is very similar, but accounts for about half as many acres, with 870,000 projected for harvest as grain this year. So far, 43 percent has been harvested.

As Hurricane Florence spins her way to landfall, it is expected to penetrate the state, with winds of 150 mph and deluges of 15-30 inches of rain. Crop damage is a given; even stored grain may in peril.

Last year, the state’s corn crop amounted to 119.3 million bushels and soybeans, 67.6 million – both less than 1 percent of national production, but potentially important to the protein producers in the state, assuming they don’t also experience extreme losses.

Hurricane Florence rainfall forecase


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