Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Will We Have Enough Corn?

I have been getting questions about the impact of the drought on corn production from this year's crop. It is still too early to predict the success of pollination and the drought's impact on yield and production, although it is not looking good. Once we are through pollination we can better estimate and at least get a feel for what to expect during this fall's harvest.

Another indicator may be to look back at other years that were considered to be drought years in Wisconsin and the U.S. (Figure 1). In Figure 1 the rolling average mean is + two years on either side of a central year. For example, the rolling average for 1988 is the mean yield or production of 1986 through 1990. There were numerous 'dry spells' during the 1950s, however, six growing seasons, 1936, 1976, 1980, 1983, 1988 and 2002 have been identified as significant 'drought' years in the Corn Belt (filled symbols in the graphs).

Figure 1. Corn grain yield (Bu/A) and production (Bushels x 1000) in Wisconsin and the United States. Filled symbols indicate drought years. Data source: USDA-NASS.
Most of these 'drought' years had yields lower than the 5-yr average. Wisconsin yields were better than U.S. yields during 4 of 6 drought years. In 1976, Wisconsin grain yields were 80% of the 5-yr average, in 1988 yields were 63% of the 5-yr average.

Corn production in Wisconsin is relatively small compared to overall U.S. production. Nationally the most significant years impacting production were the droughts of 1983 and 1988 where production was 56% and 69% of the 5-yr average.

Corn production influences price, so the more important statistic for the consumer of corn is production. Consumers include livestock feeders such as beef, dairy, pork and poultry; ethanol; export markets; other food, seed and industrial uses; and additionally a surplus is carried over to the next year. In 2011, corn growers produced 12.4 billion bushels of field corn (USDA, 2012). The total corn supply, including the corn carried over from 2010, was13.5 billion bushels. About 34% was used for livestock, 37% for ethanol production, 12% for export, 11% for other uses and 6% for carryover to the next year. In addition about 33% of the corn used to produce ethanol is fed by the livestock industry as dried distiller grains and gluten feed.

The additional acres planted to corn during 2012, a 5% increase compared to 2011, will become important for the overall production of corn. These will be needed along with the the carry over to supply consumers during 2013.

Literature cited

USDA-NASS. 2012. Quick Stats. http://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/.

Further reading

Anonymous. 2012. A tale of two corns. National Corn Growers Association Fast Facts. Website http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/tale_of_two_corns_2012.pdf

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