How will El Niño impact corn yields? Historical USDA data reveals varying trends

The El Niño weather event is creeping in and it could reach super strength. But how it will impact the ongoing corn harvest? Numbers show varying trends.

According to historical data collected by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) from its annual reports during other El Nino weather patterns, we can get a glimpse at how corn production fared in years past.

In 1982, corn production and yield set new records at the time with 8.4 billion bushels with an average of 114.8 bushels per acre.

In 1997, 9.37 billion bushels were harvested with an average of 127 bushels per acre. That was the third highest production on record.

There was a third super El Niño growing season in 2015, and 13.601 billion bushels were harvested with a yield of 168.4 bushels an acre. Both production and yield were down that year slightly.

According to press release from the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) on Oct. 12, 2023, corn and soybean production was down in September 2023. However, “corn production is forecast at 15.1 billion bushels, down less than 1% from the previous forecast but up 10% from last year. [...] Based on conditions as of Oct. 1, corn yields are expected to average 173.0 bushels per harvested acre, down 0.8 bushel from the previous forecast and down 0.4 bushel from 2022.”

As farmers in the Midwest finish their soybean harvest, some are reporting issues with stalk strength due to high winds, but only time will tell how this harvest will shake out for U.S. corn growers.

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