Cold, wet year decreases yields

Andrew D. Brosig/The Business Farmer A combine harvests corn west of Scottsbluff in December 2019. Weather patterns during the growing season led to a definite yield reductions on most crops, both across the Wyo-Braska region and around the country, according to reports from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service.

WYO-BRASKA – The cool, wet weather during the 2019 growing season was definitely a mixed blessing for producers, according to Dr. Cody Creech, dryland cropping systems specialist at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff.

“For corn, I think the name of the game would be it was just delayed,” Creech said. “We had a lot of people still getting their fields harvested even after Christmas in the valley, down along the river.”

Dryland corn growers probably fared better than their counterparts who relied on irrigation for their crops this year, he said. An abundance of rainfall on those dryland acres brought higher-than-average yields.

“On dryland crops, water is usually the limitation (on yield), and we didn’t have that limitation,” Creech said. “We definitely did better on dryland crops than we have in the past.”

The cooler weather overall throughout the growing season did take a toll on crops, particularly corn, Creech said. The lack of heat units during the crop development stage where it was needed most definitely left its mark.

“Across the Panhandle, we had a much cooler year, if you look at the growing degree days for 2019,” Creech said. “It was the lowest its been in the past six year, if not more.

“More cloud cover, less sun, less heat – that really slowed the development of the corn out here,” he said. “We just didn’t get the heat we needed to reach the higher yields.”

Creech estimated losses overall on corn at between 35-50 bushels per acre. That could mean the difference between success and just getting by, he said.

“That really made a lot of folks just trying to break even,” Creech said. “If they could break even after 2019, a lot of folks would be pretty happy, I think.”

Even as most producers are marking closed on the 2019 growing season, wheat growers are keeping a close eye on the weather as next spring’s crop of winter wheat slumbers in the fields. Good moisture levels at planting with a consistently cold – but not too cold – winter so far is good news at this point for wheat acres, Creech said.

“We’ve had a pretty mild winter with lots of moisture, which lends well to overwintering,” he said. “Right now, we’re not concerned about any large areas of winterkill – overall I’m optimistic about the wheat crop at this point.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service annual crop production summary for Nebraska released Jan. 10, corn for grain is estimated at 1.79 billion bushels, a slight decrease from 2018.

Yield of 182 bushels per acre is down 10 bushels from last year. Farmers harvested 9.81 million acres of corn for grain, up 5 percent from 2018. 

Corn for silage production is 4.60 million tons, down slightly from last year. Silage yield of 23 tons per acre is up 2 tons from last year. Corn for silage harvested acreage of 200,000 acres is down 20,000 acres from last year. Corn acreage planted for all purposes is 10.1 million acres, up 5 percent from last year.

Sugarbeet production is estimated at 1.07 million tons, down 24 percent from last year. Yield is estimated at 25.4 tons per acre, down 6.5 tons from the previous year. Acres harvested are estimated at 42,100 acres, down 5 percent from the previous year. Area planted, at 44,000 acres, is down 1,500 acres from last year.

“We were fortunate,” Creech said. “Western Sugar in our area I think was able to get all the beets out of the field.”

The USDA NASS did not publish a grain stock report for Wyoming. As of Dec. 1, 2019, however, across the United States, corn in storage in all positions totaled an estimated 11.4 billion bushels, 5 percent less than Dec. 1, 2018.

Of the total stocks, 7.18 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 4 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 4.21 billion bushels, are down 6 percent from a year ago. The September - November 2019 indicated disappearance is 4.52 billion bushels, compared with 4.54 billion bushels during the same period last year.

Despite the decrease in corn in storage, Creech doesn’t believe there will be much impact on the market, at least in the near future, he said. For the present, at least, markets are holding fairly steady, he said.

“I think overall, people think there’s still plenty of corn out there,” Creech said. “We’ve gone through a lot of crazy times and we haven’t seen a lot of response.

“It will be interesting to see what the China trade deal does; I know folks are looking forward to it. It should be beneficial to producers, but you never know.”


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