Ag Review for 2017 — Above Average Yields in Some Areas

December 11, 2017


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 2017. This will be the first of a two-part article, with a review of 2017 crop production and weather conditions this week, and a review of livestock production, input costs, grain prices and the overall farm economy next week. Following are some highlights regarding crop production and weather conditions for 2017 ……

2017 was the third year in a row (2015-2017) above average corn and soybean yields in some areas of the Upper Midwest, which has helped offset the continued low crop commodity prices. Farm operators in portions of Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa had 2017 corn yields that equaled or even exceeded the record corn yields of 2016. However, in many areas of East and West Central Minnesota, as well as in Northwestern Minnesota and in North and South Dakota, conditions were much more variable, due to a variety of weather challenges throughout the growing season. The main weather challenges were later than normal planting dates in some areas, and very dry conditions in portions of the Dakota’s and Nebraska.

Most of the corn and soybean acres in the Upper Midwest were planted slightly later than normal, with corn planting being completed by mid-late May in much of the region, and soybean planting finishing up by early June. Fortunately, the later planting dates were fairly well offset by the longer than normal growing season, which allowed crops to fully mature. Much cooler than normal temperatures throughout most of August raised some concerns regarding crops reaching maturity before the first killing frost. However, above normal temperatures during September, combined with frost dates that extended well into October in most areas, allowed the large maturity of the corn and soybeans in the region to adequately reach maturity. The 2017 harvest season was later than normal, due to the later maturing crops, and very wet field conditions in some areas.

In many areas of Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa, the 2017 corn and soybean yields were good to excellent. Whole field corn yields generally ranged from 190 to over 220 bushels per acre, with corn having very good test weight and quality. The corn coming out of the field was a bit wetter than in recent years, which required more on-farm drying. Soybean yields in the same region were mostly in a range from near 50 to 60 bushels per acre, or slightly higher; however, the top soybean yields did not approach the record yields that many producers had in 2016. Some areas had considerable soybean yield variation in 2017, due to later planting dates, the occurrence of severe storms, and a higher incidence of white mold and other soybean diseases, as well as resulting from herbicide injury.

Based on the latest USDA Crop Report, Minnesota is projected to have a 2017 corn yield of 190 bushels per acre, which is below last year’s record corn yield of 193 bushels per acre, but surpasses average yields of 188 bushels per acre in 2015, 156 bushels per acre in 2014, and 160 bushels per acre in 2013. USDA is estimating the 2017 Iowa corn yield at 197 bushels per acre, which trails only the 2016 record yield of 203 bushels per acre. USDA is estimating the 2017 Minnesota soybean yield at 46 bushels per acre, compared to last year’s record yield of 52 bushels per acre, 50 bushels per acre in 2015, and 41.5 bushels per acre in 2014. The 2017 Iowa soybean yield is estimated at 56 bushels per acre, compared to the 2016 record yield of 60 bushels per acre.

Crop conditions in 2017 were more variable in the Eastern and Southern Corn Belt, with large portions of the region dealing with very wet conditions and much later than normal planting dates; however, the long growing season helped the corn and soybean crop recover. Illinois is projected to have a 2017 corn yield of 198 bushels per acre, compared to 197 bushels per acre in 2016, while Indiana corn estimates are at 181 bushels per acre in 2017, compared to 173 bushels in 2016. Soybean yields in 2017 are projected at 58 bushels per acre in Illinois, and 55 bushels per acre in Indiana, which compares to 2016 yields of 59 bushels per acre in Illinois, and 57.5 bushels per acre in Indiana.

The drought-like conditions in many areas of North and South Dakota during the first half of the 2017 growing season had a much bigger impact on corn and soybean yields. South Dakota is projected to have an average 2017 corn yield of 150 bushels per acre, and a soybean yield of 45 bushels per acre, compared to the 2016 yields of 161 bushels per acre for corn and 49.5 bushels per acre for soybeans. The 2017 yield projections for North Dakota are 134 bushels per acre for corn and 35 bushels per acre for soybeans, which are well below the 2016 record yields of 158 bushels per acre for corn and 41.5 bushels per acre for soybeans.

By the end of November, the total annual precipitation in 2017 at the University of Minnesota Southern Research Center at Waseca, Minnesota had reached 33.36 inches, which was just slightly below the long-term average annual precipitation at the Waseca location. By comparison, in 2016, the Waseca research site recorded the highest official annual precipitation ever recorded in Minnesota, with 56.24 inches of accumulated precipitation. Other recent annual precipitation levels at the Waseca location were 45.68 inches in 2015, 35.60 inches in 2014, and 39.67 inches in 2013. One thing that aided 2017 crop production was the absence of excessive rainfall events during late May and June, which can usually lead to significant drown-out damage. Only one rainfall in excess of 1 inch in a 24-hour period was recorded at Waseca during that critical time period.

A total of 2,656 growing degree units (GDU’s) were accumulated at Waseca during the 2017 growing season by the time of the first killing frost on October 17, which was about 7 percent above the normal. The 2017 total trailed the 2016 GDU accumulation of 2938, and was the second warmest growing season ever recorded at Waseca, trailing only the drought year of 1988. The higher level of growing degree units in 2017, together with a growing season that extended well into October, greatly aided 2017 crop production in most areas. A nice stretch of weather in November helped farm operators in most of the region complete the 2017 harvest season before the onset of winter conditions.


Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and

Vice President, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. (Phone — (507) 381-7960);

E-mail — (


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