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2011 US Corn Yield Impacted by Adverse Weather

By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist.
October 17, 2011, 2:14:58 AM EDT

A wet spring and extensive July heat in the heart of the Corn Belt shrank United States corn yields for the 2011 season.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the 2011 corn crop in the nation is projected to be lower than originally forecast.

This season's U.S. corn crop yield is now estimated to be about a billion bushels less than original forecasts.

During the start of this year, the USDA was anticipating a corn yield of 13.5 billion bushels for the 2011 season. By the middle of June, the USDA was forecasting a yield of 13.2 billion bushels. The projection now is for 12.5 billion bushels of corn to be harvested in the U.S.

According to Expert Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, "Persistent wet weather this spring, followed by extreme and widespread heat during much of July is mostly to blame for the lower yields."

Wet weather during May and June in a large part of the northern Plains and Midwest resulted in a substantial number of acres not being planted or planted late, compared to original expectations.

Next, a large mass of 95- to 100-degree temperatures struck much of the same area in July and some cases the rain shut off completely.

"The persistent extreme heat hit during the peak pollination period of the corn," Mohler said.

Dryness hit some of the Corn Belt hard in August and also played a role in the lower yields.

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The corn belt appears in purple.
Map from the USDA

"The dryness hit at a time when the kernels typically fill out." Mohler said.

While less of a factor in corn production, the southern Plains, Southeast and the Northeast also suffered ill-effects of the weather from an agricultural standpoint.

The Texas drought goes without saying this summer. However, the extreme drought also extended into some corn areas of the southern Plains, such as Oklahoma and Kansas. Abnormally dry to drought conditions also affected part of the Southeast this summer and is still prevalent.

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The U.S. drought situation as of Oct. 4, 2011, according to the USDA's Drought Monitor. Drought conditions may have improved slightly in some areas from recent rains since this advisory was issued.

A wet spring and sudden extreme heat and dryness in July, like the Midwest, was felt in the Northeast. Torrential rain and flooding problems followed in the Northeast during the late summer and early fall.

The impact of the revised expected corn yield driving prices higher in corn-related products such as livestock feed and cereal is purely speculation.

The USDA expects this year's yield to be the lowest since 2005. However, even with the setbacks from the weather this season, the USDA still expects this crop to be the fourth-largest production on record.

Some experts feel that because of higher prices and less demand, China may not import as much corn as prior years.

The effects of both could potentially balance out the yield shortcomings from a pricing standpoint.

Other Crop Yields

The USDA has posted other revisions to prior cash crops.

U.S. soybean production this year is now expected to be down 8 percent from last year.

Cotton production this year is forecast to be down 8 percent from last year.

Meanwhile, the orange forecast for the upcoming season is up about 1 percent from the 2010-2011 season.

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