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Dry Conditions Spread Across US Corn Belt, Prompting Yield Concerns

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Dry conditions are spreading over an increasing portion of the US Corn Belt, raising early season concerns that crop yields could suffer. 

The Gro Drought Index, weighted for corn growing regions using Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, has moved steadily higher starting around May 23. In addition, soil moisture readings aggregated for US corn growing areas are at their lowest levels since 2012.

Some 76% of the Corn Belt is currently experiencing excessive dryness, according to the Gro Drought Index, which measures drought on a scale of 0, or no drought, to 5, or exceptional drought. 

Nearly half the Corn Belt is in some degree of drought, with readings of between 1.5 and 5 on the Gro Index. An additional 30% of the Corn Belt is facing “abnormal dryness,” or 0.5 to 1.49 on the index. 

The Gro Drought Index, which updates daily, provides high-resolution drought readings across the globe down to the district, or county, level. 

Nebraska, the No. 4 corn producing state in 2022, is currently experiencing the worst drought conditions for this time of year in at least 20 years. Soil moisture readings are also the lowest since at least 2010 as seen in this Navigator display

Gro’s US Corn Yield Forecast Model, which launched for the season this week, is currently pointing to a modest year-over-year yield increase. But with little rain in the forecast through mid-June, drought conditions could get increasingly worse, ratcheting yields lower. 

Gro’s machine learning-based yield forecast models update daily and provide estimates for in-season yields at the district, province, and/or national levels. These models use weather, vegetation health, and soil data, along with various other environmental features to continuously forecast final end of season yields.

US corn planting is now virtually complete and acreage expanded by 3.9% to an estimated 92 million acres year over year. Gro’s model is currently forecasting yields below the USDA’s initial estimate of 181.5 bushels per acre.


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