Drought-Hit Soybeans Could Still Bounce Back, Gro Analysis Shows

20 July 2021

Hot and dry conditions are forecast to continue into August in the Western Corn Belt and Northern Plains, leaving soybean yields little room for error as the plants approach August’s critical pod-filling stage. 

Without near-record yields in 2021/22, the already tight US soybean balance sheet becomes unsustainable quickly. But a Gro analysis shows that this year’s soybean crop could still do well if rains arrive in August and September. Soybeans are known for their ability to endure dry weather and can bounce back with late-summer precipitation.

That’s what happened in 2012, one of the worst drought years of this century. (See this comparison of current drought conditions with those of 2012.) Late arriving rainfall in August/September 2012 aided in the development of soybean pod fill and consequently drove soybean futures prices down 20% from their peak. 

As a result, soybean yields in 2012 fell just 4.6% year over year. By comparison, corn yields plunged 16% that year. 

Gro users can track weather and growing conditions in soybean growing regions using the Gro Climate Navigator for Agriculture, as seen in this display focused on soybean areas in Iowa. Users can also follow Gro’s US Soybean Yield Forecast Model for a daily read on soybean yields during this critical time. 

The USDA is currently projecting total soybean production of 4.34 billion bushels (119.9 million tonnes) based on a national average yield of 50.9 bushels per acre. But that still falls 80 million bushels short of projected demand

Current drought conditions are mainly in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, as seen via the Gro Drought Index. Together, those areas represent over 60% of the soybean acres added since last year, making the region critically important to the national soybean yield. 

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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