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May 18, 2016

Initial 2016 U.S. Corn Production Estimate - 14.0 Billion Bushels

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The March Prospective Planting Report indicated that U.S. farmers would plant 93.6 million acres of corn. At the time, the estimate came as a surprise and most people thought the estimate was too high. Before the report was issued, I thought the corn acreage might be 92-93 million acres. The weather during most of April was rather good and a result, I started to warm up to the possibility that U.S. farmers might actually hit that mark of 93.6 million acres.

Since then, the weather has not been as good, especially in the eastern areas, and the soybean prices have rebounded nicely since the WASDE report last week. Therefore, I now doubt that U.S. farmers will plant 93.6 million acres of corn.

I am currently estimating that the 2016 U.S. corn acreage will be 92.0 million acres with most of the decline coming from the switching of corn to soybeans in the wetter areas of the eastern Corn Belt as well as in a few areas of the northwestern Corn Belt and some of the more southern areas. If farmers do end up planting 92.0 million acres of corn, then the harvested acreage would be 84.3 million acres (91.7% of 92.0 million). The vast majority of corn not harvested for grain will be harvested for silage.

As far as corn yields are concerned, right now I would estimate the corn yield at 166 bu/ac, which would be a little lower than long term trend line yields. I am a little lower than the trend line yield due to the fact that more corn is being planted in lower yielding environments. Additionally, the corn plant population might be a little sub-par in certain areas due to near record low temperatures slowing emergence, maybe a little frost damage here and there, and some crusting concerns. Individually, these are not major concerns, but collectively they could trim the corn plant population a little and subsequently the yield as well.

Having said that, we all know that the summer weather will be the determining factor for corn yields. The most sensitive time for corn is during pollination, which can be a make-or-break period for the corn crop. The second most important time is pre-pollination when the size of the ear is determined and the third most important time is during early grain filling when moisture deficits could result in kernel abortion at the tip of the ear (tip back).

It is very early to be making these type of estimates, but I am doing it so that we have a starting point for the U.S. growing season. The estimates listed below as sure to change as the season progresses.

2016 U.S. corn planted acreage92.0 million acres
2016 U.S. corn harvested acreage84.3 million acres
2016 U.S. corn yield166.0 bushels per acre
2016 U.S. corn production14.0 billion bushels