Maturity, Freeze Potential Factor in Pro Farmer Yield Estimates

Posted on 08/23/2019 5:00 PM

by Anna-Lisa Laca

On Friday Pro Farmer released their 2019 yield estimates for corn and soybeans. Pro Farmer analysts estimate 2019 corn production at 13.358 billion bu. with an average yield of 163.3 bu. per acre. They estimate soybeans at 3.497 billion bu. with an average yield of 46.1 bu. per acre.

If you’ve been following along with the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, Farm Journal’s annual assessment of expected crop yields, then you probably noticed these estimates are lower than the yields discovered on the tour. That’s because these are the Pro Farmer estimates and they are not associated with crop tour, says Pro Farmer editor Brian Grete. Here’s how they calculate the numbers. 

“On Crop Tour, we pull out the samples, tabulate them, and then we put them into our spreadsheets. They get averaged up and they give us averages by crop district and state there,” he explained to AgDay host Clinton Griffiths. “And then at the end of the week we make these Pro Farmer estimates using the crop tour data, but we also use other factors.”

Maturity of the crop, possible acreage changes, and general thoughts about how the crop will finish in the areas outside of the Crop Tour sampling region play a role in the estimates. 

“Maturity was the key, because we sampled crops that were anywhere from behind to well behind normal. That was pretty much universal across the Corn Belt,” Grete said. “The biggest differences obviously in maturity were in the eastern, far eastern Corn Belt Ohio, Indiana. Parts of Illinois, South Dakota, was an immature crop there as well. You know when we got into Iowa and Nebraska they were a little bit more mature, but I wouldn't say anything was more advanced than what it normally would be.”

While crop maturity certainly influenced Pro Farmer to lower yields, AgriTalk host and Pro Farmer editorial director Chip Flory pointed out sample yields were lower as well.  

“The maturity factor is critical, but when we put all the crop tour samples into one spreadsheet to calculate one average yield off of all the samples, it’s down 6.9% from what we had a year ago,” he said. 

Grete and Flory agree the estimates released by Pro Farmer on Friday are more in line with trade expectations than those released by USDA on Aug. 12. 

A Moving Target

While the team at Pro Farmer stands by their estimate, they say the growing season could swing the numbers. This year Pro Farmer released a range of +/- 1% on corn, which is 164.9 to 161.7 bu per acre, and of +/- 2% on soybeans, which is 47 to 45.2 bu. per acre. That’s because the length of the growing season could have a significant impact on yields once combines roll. 

“The more immature the crop is, the more potential you're measuring, as opposed to last year when we more measured more realized yield,” Grete explained. “At that point, we knew kind of how much was it was going to hold on to. We just didn't know exactly the very end of the growing season. This year, there's still a lot of growing season left, at least we hope there is. If not, then we've got other problems.”

Flory said it’s likely the Pro Farmer estimate will change in the coming weeks. 

“Because of the immaturity of the crop, you've got to stay nimble with your expectations on the supply side,” he said. “Weather conditions are going to have a major impact from this point forward on how both the corn and the soybean crop are going to finish. Based on what we know right now at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, that's the best estimate that we can put on the corn and soybean crops. Is it going to change? I would almost guarantee it.”

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