Crop Update: Variability is High this Year

This season continues to be a mixed bag in just about every way. As of September 24, only 51 percent of the corn is mature, well behind the 64 percent average. Many states are well behind, including South Dakota at 32 percent versus a 57 percent average. Most of the remainder of the states in our service area are close to their averages.

Harvest in the 18 states is reported at 11 percent, six points behind average. Iowa has harvested only 3 percent versus 10 on average; Kansas is at 29 percent compared with an average of 35, Nebraska 7 versus 13 and South Dakota 1 percent versus 11. Recent rains won’t push harvest along.

Corn condition has slipped a bit, especially on the top end:

State Poor/very poor Good/excellent
Iowa 13 59
Kansas 19 52
Nebraska 11 67
South Dakota 27 40
18 States 13 61



Soybean harvest is behind as well, but by only 2 percentage points in the 18 states. South Dakota is far behind average (4 percent versus 17), while Iowa, at 5 percent, lags by three points. Nebraska is right on its 10 percent average and Kansas is ahead by 3 points, at 6 percent.

Soybeans offer some optimism for South Dakota, with both ends of the condition scale looking better. Scores are comparable for corn and beans in the 18 states, on the other hand.

State Poor/very poor Good/excellent
Iowa 13 60
Kansas 20 43
Nebraska 10 64
South Dakota 19 49
18 States 12 60


Grain Sorghum

Maturity, as measured by coloring, reported mature and harvest, is within two points of normal in the 11 reported states. About a third of the crop has been harvested.


There is no doubt this year will be one of great yield variability. Our staff has seen it in travels through our states and our customers confirm it.

The September supply/demand drew skepticism from many regarding projected yields. Can corn make USDA’s 169.9 or soybeans, 49.9 bu.?

David Widmar, Purdue University agricultural economist, points out that every year brings many acres with below-trend yields. The numbers may be somewhat surprising. Since 2000, he reports, the number of corn acres with yields below 85 percent of trend has averaged 10.2 million. If you exclude the extreme years of 2002 and 2012, the average is 6.4 million. The lowest number of low-yielding acres was 2.2 million, in 2009.

Two charts, prepared by Widmar, show that the years when roughly an average percent of acres had below-average yields, the national average yield actually was above the trend. It was only in years when acreage with below-trend yields were close to or above 10 percent that the national yield fell below trend.

This helps explain why USDA’s yield estimate may seem higher than the back-fence reports and social media chatter might indicate.

For Widmar’s article, see