The U.S. corn belt is enjoying one of its best growing seasons in years, according to a Reuters analysis of government temperature data, that looks likely to boost yields and deliver a record crop.
The number of growing degree days, a method of measuring temperatures between 50 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit considered to provide the best growing conditions, in top corn states Iowa and Illinois were running 18 to 35 per cent above normal by the first week in June.
The growing degree days heat index, tracking temperatures from March 1 through June 5, showed that heat levels in some major corn states were above the 30-year average.
An early harvest, which typically begins in September in the Midwest, coupled with high yields and record production, would put pressure on Chicago Board of Trade corn futures earlier than usual as supplies flood the cash market.
Agricultural commodity advisory company Brock Associates said in its note to clients that “there is growing fundamental justification for corn futures to drop below $3 (per bushel) and perhaps as low as $2.50” in the longer term if the current weather conditions help to deliver a large crop.
Chris Hurt, agricultural economist at Indiana’s Purdue University, said that if crop conditions remained favourable, “my model suggests that yield could be (a record) 166.9 bushels per acre.”
“Production could be 13.65 billion bushels,” he added.
The U.S. Agriculture Department, in its May report, pegged corn yield this year, based on harvested acres, at 163.5 bushels and production at 13.37 billion bushels.
Chuck Francis, crop specialist at the University of Nebraska, said current GDD data shows that the crop season was ahead of the normal pace. “The season is ahead of normal and development is more rapid,” he said.
“Farmers have been able to use GDD data to get maximum yield from their hybrid crops, as it tells you how many growing degree days you need to the crop to reach maturity.
“This helps farmers to plant their crop to avoid frosts, and get better yields,” he added.
Analysts cautioned that the excellent growing season so far could be derailed if the corn crop does not receive sufficient rains through its critical pollination state in July.
“There could be some bumps on the road. If you don’t get moisture later on, the crop will not fill out,” grains analyst Don Roose of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa, said.
“The growing degree days tells you how the crop started, but if it doesn’t rain later, it will shorten the yields pretty fast,” he added.