Focus on Ag

2012 Agriculture Review: Crop Production, Drought Conditions


Table of Contents:


As we reach the end of the year, it is a good time to reflect on what happened agriculturally in the region and across the United States in 2012. This will be a two-part article, with a review of 2012 crop production and weather conditions this week, and a review of livestock production, input costs and grain prices next week.


Crop Production

2012 will be remembered as the year of the drought, and a crop year with weather extremes and highly variable crop conditions in many areas of Minnesota. The year started out with earlier-than-normal corn planting in most of the state, with a large majority corn planted in April or very early May. Warmer-than-normal temperatures, along with adequate topsoil moisture, resulted in excellent crop germination and allowed the 2012 corn and soybean crop to get off to a good start. The month of May had 150-200% of normal rainfall in much of the southern half of Minnesota, which allowed for restoration of stored soil moisture levels to near capacity levels in many areas. The soil moisture reserves proved to be quite beneficial later in the growing season, which featured well-below-normal precipitation levels in most areas after mid-June. The very warm, dry weather pattern throughout much of the growing season lead to rapid development, maturity and drydown of the 2012 corn and soybean crop, which resulted in an early harvest season.

In most areas of south-central and southwestern Minnesota, the 2012 crop yields were highly variable, mainly due to the extremes in weather conditions during the growing season. Whole-field corn yields generally ranged from 140 to 190 bu./acre, while whole-field soybean yields were mostly in a range from 35 to 55 bu./acre, with some exceptional yields exceeding these ranges. There were large yield variations in 2012, sometimes occurring on the same farm, in the same township or even in the same field. Some lower whole-field yield levels existed in areas that were hard-hit by the very dry late season weather pattern, or by severe storms earlier in the growing season. Some higher yield levels occurred in west-central and southeastern Minnesota, which received more timely rainfall, and had a bit more favorable growing conditions later in the growing season.

Other good news with the 2012corn harvest, besides the better-than-expected yields, was the dryness of the corn and the quality of the corn at harvest. Most of the corn harvested in southern Minnesota in September and early October was at moisture levels of 13-17%, so it could go directly to farm grain bins without additional drying, or could be hauled to grain warehouses with little or no price dockage for excess kernel moisture. Most of the 2012 corn crop was also harvested with a test weight of 56-60 lbs./bu., which is at or above the standard test weight of 56 lbs.

Based on the most recent USDA crop report, the estimated 2012 corn yield for Minnesota is 168 bu./acre, which is the highest of the major corn-producing states in the U.S., and is well above the projected 2012 national average corn yield of 122.3 bu. Other drought-reduced 2012 average USDA corn yield estimates are Iowa at 139 bu., Illinois at 101 bu., Indiana at 100 bu., Nebraska at 139 bu. and South Dakota at 94 bu. All of these estimated 2012 statewide corn yields are well below average statewide yields in recent years. The projected 2012 Minnesota corn yield of 168 bu. is an increase of 12 bu. from the 2011 statewide corn yield of 156 bu./acre, but is still well below Minnesota’s record average corn yield of 177 bu. in 2010.

USDA is estimating the average national soybean yield for 2012 at 39.3 bu./acre, which is well below recent national average soybean yields of 41.9 bu. in 2011, 43.5 bu. in 2010, and the record U.S. soybean yield of 44.0 bu. in 2009. USDA estimated the 2012 Minnesota soybean yield at 43 bu., which is an increase of 4 bu. from the 2011 Minnesota soybean yield of 39 bu., but is still below the state record soybean yield of 45 bu./acre, set in 2010. The 2012 Iowa soybean yield is estimated at 44 bu./acre, compared to 51.5 bu. in 2011.

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