The 2017 Growing Season Gets Off to a Good Start

Published on April 25, 2017 by John Lomas

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

Flax and other cover crops in an experimental plot in northwest Kansas (picture by Jude Kastens)

Flax and other cover crops in an experimental plot in northwest Kansas (picture by Jude Kastens)

April 2017 – In collaboration with commercial partners TerraMetrics Agriculture, Inc. (TMAI)(TMAI) of Lawrence and Planalytics of Berwyn, PA, the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program recently released the GreenReport® and Crop Yield Forecast schedule for 2017. The GreenReport® was launched on March 15, and crop yield forecasting began March 22 with winter wheat. Corn and soybean yield forecasting will start on May 31.

The 2017 growing season marks our 16th year of satellite-based, real time crop yield forecasting for the nation.

Prior to last year, the record US winter wheat yield stood at 47.8 bu/ac, which was established in 1999. This high water mark was destroyed in 2016 with an observed final yield of 55.3 bu/ac. Top-producer Kansas saw its record yield leap from 49 bu/ac (set in 1998) to 57 bu/ac. So far this year, the US winter wheat crop has promise, but it will be difficult to achieve the same heights as last year’s historic crop. Nonetheless, our latest analysis puts crop potential up near 50 bu/ac.

US corn yield also set a record last year at 174.6 bu/ac, easily eclipsing the previous record of 171 bu/ac set in 2014. With three straight years of bumper corn crops, prices remain depressed as producers and grain handlers continue to whittle down large quantities of stored inventory. Planting of the 2017 US corn crop is well underway and roughly proceeding at average pace. Most heavy corn-producing areas will begin the growing season with abundant soil moisture reserves, which should allow the crop to get off to a good start—that is, assuming recent wetness abates long enough for farmers to get their corn planted in a timely fashion.

Not to be outdone, US soybean yield has reached record levels in four consecutive years, beginning with 44 bu/ac in 2013 (which matched the record set in 2009), followed by 47.5 bu/ac in 2014, 48 bu/ac in 2015, and finally 52.1 bu/ac in 2016. Many things have to go right to achieve this remarkable feat, beginning with the weather. Late-season conditions have been very favorable over this span, and soybeans are masters of the strong finish. Planting of the 2017 crop is just getting started. Like with corn, if farmers can get the crop in the ground without much adversity, there appears to be plenty of moisture to carry the US soybean crop well into its vegetative growth stages.

While cool and wet conditions currently prevail across most key US grain growing regions, warmer temperatures are expected for the summer along with near-normal precipitation. However, the crystal ball is hazy, and weather patterns could emerge that turn this outlook on its head. As usual in springtime, much uncertainty remains about how the 2017 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 1989-2016 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 22. In addition to winter wheat, forecasting for seven other crops (including corn and soybeans) will begin on May 31. 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 2017 represents KARS-TMAI’s 16th 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