The 2016 Growing Season Has Begun!

Published on March 31, 2016 by Jude Kastens

Tags: Agriculture, Corn, Crop yield, Drought, Greenness, GreenReport, Growing Season, NDVI, Research, Satellite imagery, Soybeans, Weather, Wheat

Mature Grain Sorghum Field (picture by Dietrich Kastens)

Mature Grain Sorghum Field (picture by Dietrich Kastens)

March 2016 – In collaboration with commercial partners TerraMetrics Agriculture, Inc. (TMAI) of Lawrence and Planalytics of Berwyn, PA, the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program recently released the GreenReport® and Crop Yield Forecast schedule for 2016. The GreenReport® was launched on March 15, and crop yield forecasting began March 23 with winter wheat. Corn and soybean yield forecasting will start on June 1.

The 2016 growing season marks our 15th year of satellite-based, real time crop yield forecasting for the nation. From the record-breaking corn & soy yields in 2009 and again in 2014, to the historic drought (and disastrous yields) in between in 2012, every year seems to offer some weather-driven surprises. In addition to establishing an impressive track record for prediction, we continue to learn about the fascinating relationship between satellite greenness values (NDVI) and their utility for foreshadowing final crop yields.

With spring upon us, we see the 2016 growing season beginning to take shape. While most of the Central and Southern Great Plains winter wheat crop managed to get a good foothold before going idle at the end of 2015, unusually warm temperatures in late February and early March caused much of the central U.S. crop to break dormancy ahead of its usual pace. While concerns for freeze vulnerability of the advanced crop were harshly tested in mid-March, it appears that damage was somewhat limited. Producer concerns from Kansas down to Texas currently center on the dry conditions that have taken root across the area.

As for the summer crops, planting season is right around the corner for corn in the Midwestern Corn Belt. Soil moisture conditions are generally favorable across most of the area, so the stage is set. Once again, it will be up to Mother Nature to determine if planting will be early or normal or late, as farmers consistently have shown the ability to make great strides in getting the crop into the ground as soon as the opportunity presents itself (and early planting deadlines for crop insurance have passed!).

With the last signs of a strong El Niño beginning to fade, summertime weather expectations currently are all over the board, leaving great uncertainty regarding how the 2016 growing season will unfold. Stay on top of things by following the GreenReport® and the satellite-based Crop Yield Forecasts throughout the year.


Using satellite imagery to measure plant vigor across the conterminous U.S., the GreenReport® is published weekly by KARS during the March-October growing period. Current conditions are related to the previous week, the previous year, and the 1989-2015 historical average. To enhance the value of the GreenReport® maps, Planalytics agribusiness meteorologists provide critical insight by describing the impact of historical, current, and forecasted weather on current vegetation conditions and expected changes in condition, with an emphasis on agriculture.

The GreenReport® can be viewed in 2 different formats. A set of fixed maps that illustrate vegetation condition and change at reduced resolutions can be seen can be found here. An interactive GIS format, with selectable layers and maps at full resolution, can be found here.

KARS-TMAI Crop Yield Forecasts are updated biweekly throughout the growing season and cover the conterminous U.S. at district (ASD), state, and national scales. Winter wheat yield forecasting begins on March 23. In addition to winter wheat, forecasting for seven other crops (including corn and soybeans) will begin on June 1. All Crop Yield Forecasts will be distributed by Planalytics. Each Crop Yield Forecast update is enhanced with expert commentary provided by KARS-TMAI.

Crop yield forecasting research at KARS-TMAI has been ongoing since 1995, and 2016 represents KARS-TMAI’s 15th year of real-time, nationwide forecasting. For more information regarding Planalytics agribusiness solutions, see the Planalytics website. For general information regarding KARS-TMAI crop yield forecasting, see past news item 'Satellites Are Watching Your Corn', or contact Jude Kastens.