State corn yield dropped to 125 bushels
Wisconsin's state average corn yield was dropped a couple of bushels per acre from the last estimate - landing at 125 - but is far better than many would have expected during the worst of the drought this summer.
Wisconsin's Agricultural Statistician Bob Battaglia told members of the policy board for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on Nov. 14 at their meeting in Madison that the state average was dropped a couple of bushels per acre based on the amount of corn that was lost in the field during harvest and on final tallies.
This year's crop featured smaller ears and greater harvest losses than might have been expected in a normal year.
The November report is based on objective yield field visits and producer interviews, Battaglia said.
Based on conditions as of Nov. 1, Wisconsin's corn yield was expected to be 125 bushels per acre, down two bushels from last month's estimate.
Total production, he said, is expected to be 431 million bushels, down 17 percent from the record corn yields of 2011.
This year's yield would be the lowest since 1996 when farmers got 111 bushels per acre. Battaglia said the corn objective yield survey found that there was an average of 27,100 ears per acre this year - 1,550 fewer than last year.
The northern reaches of the state, where rain was more plentiful, pulled the state average up, he added.
But in some southern and southwestern Wisconsin fields, farmers faced a very real decision this year as to whether or not it was economically feasible to run the combine through the field.
Even at 125 bushels per acre - which is 31 bushels per acre less than last year and 37 less than the record yields of 2010 - some grain farmers still did okay because the prices were historically high and crop insurance helped make up any shortfall, he said.
This year's corn harvest is a whopper compared to what farmers harvested in the last great drought in 1988. That year, state farmers averaged 67 bushels per acre across the state.
Experts and farmers themselves are crediting the seed genetics for drought resistance and other traits that have been built into the crops. Many say that without advancements in genetics, they would have seen 1988-level yields in their cornfields.
Corn production in the United States as of Nov. 1 was forecast at 10.7 billion bushels, up slightly from the forecast of a month ago, but down 13 percent from last year. If that forecast holds up, this would be the lowest production total since 2006.
The national corn yield is expected to average 122.3 bushels per acre, down 24.9 bushels from 2011 - the lowest national average since 1995.
Board member Mike Dummer said the corn crop exceeded expectation on his family's farm in west central Wisconsin and "the soybeans were nothing short of a miracle."
They harvested 50-80 bushels of soybeans where it had looked like 20 would have been a more likely estimate of potential yield earlier in the season.
"It is no less than remarkable what has been built into the genetics of these crops," Dummer added.
Secretary Ben Brancel said the effects of the drought are still being felt, especially by dairy and livestock farmers.
Board member John Koepke said the impact of the drought will vary from farm to farm and from management system to management system. "If you're out there looking for forage, there may be some cows exiting the barn."
"We're really in a world of have and have-nots," Koepke added. In his dairy co-op some farmers have sold out and others are planning to. For others, the silos are full and so are the other feed structures.
Battaglia said he had just looked at the numbers and hasn't found an excessive number of dairy farmers exiting the business. "There are always some exits because of demographics."
Brancel and Battaglia are looking at pulling together numbers on the amount of available forages on farms in the state to get farmers through until the hay starts to grow next May and June.
"We're not out of the woods from this drought yet, but it's so much better than it could have been," Brancel said.
Wisconsin's soybean crop is forecast at 39 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month but 7.5 bushels lower than last year. That would make this the lowest state average since 2008, when it stood at 35 bushels per acre.
State production of soybeans is expected to come in at 66.3 million bushels, 11 percent below 2011.
Nationally, soybean production is forecast at 2.97 billion bushels, up four percent from the October forecast, but down four percent from last year's harvest.
"Overall it was better than people expected it to be during the worst part of the heat and drought," Battaglia said.