Blogging by the Bushel
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Archive for July, 2011

Anna Kaverman- Mercer Landmark

I don’t have to tell any of you that it’s hot outside and relief is still a ways out. The continuation of these high temperatures in southern areas and the expansion of hot weather to much of the Corn Belt this week have raised additional concerns about corn yield. The high temperatures in the Corn Belt are occurring during the reproductive stage for a large portion of the crop, said University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

A number of factors combine each year to determine the U.S. average corn yield. Among those factors, temperature and precipitation during July are the most important, he said. Crop yield models have long confirmed the large yield impact of July weather. Not surprisingly the most favorable weather conditions in July in the heart of the Corn Belt consist of temperatures that are modestly below average and precipitation that is about 25 percent above average. These are the kind of conditions that were experienced in 2009 and contributed to the record high U.S. average yield that year. These conditions however, have been historically rare over large areas.

Conditions earlier this year and so far in July have been less than ideal. In fact they have been downright crappy. Planting was late in portions of the eastern and northern Corn Belt. Southern portions of the United States have experienced hot and generally dry conditions for an extended period. The central and northern growing areas have experienced widely varying weather conditions during planting and the early part of the growing season.

These widely varying conditions have been reflected in the USDA’s weekly Crop Progress reports, which report crop condition ratings. As of July 18, the lowest crop ratings were reported in Texas, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio. For these four states combined only 19% of the crop is rated excellent. The highest crop ratings were in Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Tennessee There is some indication that the intense heat will begin to moderate in many areas by the upcoming weekend. Still, average July temperatures in the Corn Belt may rank among the highest since 1960.

In addition to the high temperatures, corn yield potential may be threatened by the expanding area of dryness over the last few weeks. For the first half of July portions of southeastern Iowa, northwest Ohio, and eastern Michigan have also been relatively dry. Precipitation over the past 30 days was also below normal in large portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and southern Wisconsin.

This less than favorable July weather in many areas has reduced corn yield potential in those areas. The overall impact on the likely U.S. average corn yield will be influenced by weather conditions in the last week of July and in August. Any indication of damage will continue to be revealed in the weekly crop conditions ratings followed by the August 11th USDA report.

Overall ratings for the week ended July 17 declined substantially, but declines also could be reported again for the week ending July 24 as a result of high temperatures and the lack of widespread precipitation.

The 2011 U.S. corn yield is of utter importance due to the USDA’s projection of record consumption of U.S. corn during the 2011-12 marketing year. The most recent projection, released on July 12, forecasts consumption at 13.5 billion bushels, 195 million bushels above expected consumption during the current marketing year. Stocks at the end of the 2011-12 marketing year are projected at 870 million bushels, or 6.4 percent of projected use. Based on the forecast of 84.9 million acres to be harvested, a yield below 156.5 bushels would force a reduction in the projected level of consumption. A continuation of relatively high livestock and ethanol prices, along with growing Chinese demand, suggests that high corn prices would be required to curtail consumption.

For now, the corn market is reflecting modest concerns about the size of the 2011 crop. December 2011 futures recovered by more than $1.00 from the low on July 1 but are currently about 50 cents below the high reached on June 9. Prices should continue to reflect weather conditions, weather forecasts, and crop condition ratings.

To re-cap the nature of the 2011 planting and growing season creates a large amount of uncertainty about the size of the 2011 corn crop. Small inventories and strong demand increase the importance of crop size. The USDA’s August production forecast is highly anticipated due to the possibility of adjustments to the harvested acreage forecast and because it will establish a benchmark for forming production expectations.

All of the uncertainty makes it difficult to judge the overall price direction, but it appears there is more production risk than is currently reflected by the corn market.

Anna Kaverman-Mercer Landmark

With the late planting of this year there has been some talk lately about growing degree days.  What I found is that not everyone, including myself, really understands what growing degree days are. I found this article on Ag Web and thought it did a great job explaining the topic and hopefully it will clear up any questions that you may have.

What Are Growing Degree Days?

Jun 30, 2011

Question: What are growing degree days, and how can I use them to determine how my corn crop is developing?

Answer: You can use heat measurement standards called growing degree days (GDDs), or growing degree units, to assess and project corn development stages.  Knowing the GDDs for your geography can also help equip you to select a package of hybrids for your farm that includes a variety of relative maturities.  Many seed corn companies readily provide such information for that purpose.

The amount of GDDs a specific corn hybrid requires to reach each development stage during the growing season remains constant from year to year. However, the amount of time that hybrid needs to accumulate those heat units can vary considerably from year to year due to planting date, weather conditions and temperature. Contact your local or state Extension service for specific information on GDDs for your geography. University Extension resources also often provide a GDD calculator to make tracking heat units an easier process.

GDDs are calculated for each day starting the day after planting. To calculate GDDs, review the basic equation, direction and examples provided here.

GDD= [(high °F + low °F)/2]-50

If the high is above 86°F, use 86°F in the equation.

If the low is below 50°F, use 50°F in the equation.


High: 81°F Low: 63°F

GDD= ((81+63)/2)-50= 22 GDD

High: 68°F Low: 44°F

GDD= ((68+50)/2)-50= 9 GDD

Be aware that while most companies rate hybrids based on the timing between planting and maturity, some rate them from emergence to maturity.  If the latter is what you find, add 150 to get the GDDs from planting.