Abandoned Corn Acres Could Jump, Gro Analysis Shows

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The USDA boosted corn planted area by 1.5 million acres in its June Acreage report. But most of that additional corn area is in Western Corn Belt states that are currently stressed by drought, according to the Gro Drought Index, increasing the risk that farmers may be forced to abandon some of their acres before harvest.  

Some 8.8% of corn acreage nationwide is abandoned each year, based on a 20-year average, a Gro analysis shows. But in drought years, that rate has jumped above 12%, representing an addition of millions of acres abandoned before harvest. Farmers abandon acres when crops become uneconomic to harvest, for example, because of poor yields. 

Any shortfall in US new crop production, including from abandoned acres, will impact markets worldwide amid currently tight global grain supplies

The USDA estimated 92.7 million acres of corn, the largest planted corn area since 2016. That’s up 1.9 million acres from last year, and up 1.5 million acres from the March Prospective Plantings report. Most of the added acres are in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, all of which are experiencing varying degrees of drought in the vast majority of counties.

Gro’s Drought Index (GDI) currently shows a statewide reading for South Dakota of 1.5, indicating “abnormally dry” conditions. Similar mid-July conditions were seen in both 2012 and 2017, when acreage abandonment rates for both years topped 10%. 

South Dakota’s worst recorded drought was in 2006, when the GDI showed a “severe drought” reading of 3.05 in mid-July. Some 28% of the state’s corn acres were abandoned that year, as corn yield slumped 20% from the previous year. 

Current growing conditions suggest troubling prospects for corn production in the Western Corn Belt due to ongoing drought. Gro users can track daily updates on Gro’s Drought Index and US Corn Yield Forecast Model for up-to-date readings on US corn production.

This insight was powered by the Gro platform, which enables better and faster decisions about factors affecting the entire global agricultural ecosystem. Gro organizes over 40,000 datasets from sources around the world into a unified ontology, which allows users to derive valuable insights such as this one. You can explore the data available on Gro with a free account, or please get in touch if you would like to learn more about a specific crop, region, or business issue.

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