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USDA Further Trims Its Forecasts for US Corn and Soybeans

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The USDA again trimmed its forecasts for US corn and soybean yields, reflecting the season’s varying rainfall deficits and heat stress in many parts of the Corn Belt. 

In its October WASDE report, the USDA forecast average 2023/24 corn yields of 173 bushels per acre, down 0.5% from last month’s projection. Corn production was forecasted at 382.6 million tonnes (15.064 billion bushels) — the third highest in history. That estimate is down 0.5% from last month but is nearly 10% above last year’s output. 

Soybean yields are seen at 49.6 bu/acre, down 1% from last month. The USDA projected soybean production at 111.7 million tonnes (4.104 billion bushels), which would be 4% below last year. This represents the smallest soybean crop in four years, as 2023/24 soybean planted acreage dropped by 4.5% from last year. 

The diminished outlook for US corn production — combined with lower beginning stocks that the USDA reported last month — slightly reduced estimates for US corn ending stocks. Still, 2023/24 corn ending stocks are expected to be at their highest level in five years. However, soybean ending stocks are forecast to be the lowest in seven years. 

Changes to corn yield estimates were scattered throughout the Midwest amid varying growing conditions. Many regions saw serious rainfall deficits in June that were followed by significant surpluses in July, as shown by Gro’s Climate Anomalies application, which analyzes historical temperature and precipitation data worldwide and identifies variations from climate trends over time. Precipitation deficits returned in August for much of the central Corn Belt.

Western corn producers saw more than their share of hot and dry weather, as seen in this display from Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, weighted for western states’ corn growing areas. By contrast, eastern producers fared better. Corn yields in Illinois and Indiana increased. But the largest corn and soybean yield declines were seen in Kansas, Michigan, and Nebraska. 

Gro’s machine-learning US corn and soybean Yield Forecast Models are currently predicting a national average yield well above the latest USDA estimates. NDVI, a satellite-derived measure of plant health and a key driver of Gro’s yield forecast models, showed high values for the peak periods of the growing season. 

In the past six years, Gro’s US Corn Yield Forecast Model has been within 1.7% of the USDA final January report by September. Gro’s US Soybean Yield Forecast Model has been within 0.8% of the USDA’s final number by September.

Globally, the USDA further cut its production outlook for Australia wheat as overly dry conditions largely driven by El Niño batter the crop. Brazil’s wheat crop forecast also was reduced, due to excessive rainfall.  

Ongoing Texas drought pulled down the USDA forecast for US cotton production, which is now seen falling by 11% from last year — the smallest US cotton harvest since 2015.

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