2018 U.S. Corn & Soybeans Out of the Gate Fast

Published on June 6, 2018 by Jude Kastens

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

2018 peas on 2017 corn stalks in northwest Kansas (picture by Jude Kastens)

2018 peas on 2017 corn stalks in northwest Kansas (picture by Jude Kastens)

June 6, 2018 – In collaboration with commercial partners TerraMetrics Agriculture, Inc. (TMAI) of Lawrence and Planalytics of Berwyn, PA, the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program (KARS) is keeping the industry apprised of the 2018 growing season through its GreenReport® and Crop Yield Forecast products. The GreenReport® was launched on March 14, and crop yield forecasting began March 21 with winter wheat. Corn and soybean yield forecasting started on May 30.

The 2018 growing season marks our 17th year of satellite-based, real time crop yield forecasting for the nation.

Following a prolonged winter that caused growth delays for much of the US winter wheat crop, an abundance of heat and dryness across the southern and central Great Plains has things nearly caught up to normal pace. Harvest is underway in Texas and Oklahoma and will soon be in Kansas. While not a disaster, below-trend yields are expected for these states, which account for 35% of the US crop. It is quite a different story in most other key winter wheat growing areas, including the Pacific Northwest, the northern Great Plains, and the Midwest. Crop conditions in those areas are much better, with yield prospects mostly coming in above trend. When the dust settles, our latest analysis suggests US winter wheat yield will land close to trend at 49 bu/ac, but with a better chance of falling short of this number than rising above it.

US corn is coming off four consecutive above-trend crops during 2014-2017, with a new record yield established in three of those years. 2017 was looking like a good crop until an unusually strong finish turned it into a great crop. Final yield ended up at 176.6 bu/ac, which bested the benchmark set in 2016 by 2 bu/ac. In 2018, a near-record cold April across the Midwest had folks nervous about planting, but these feelings quickly faded with a near-record warm May. Both satellite greenness and USDA crop conditions are suggesting above-trend crop potential, but expanding areas of depleted soil moisture coupled with concerns for summertime heat at pollination and beyond are keeping things interesting. We’ll know a lot more in a month or so.

Similar to the corn crop, US soybeans have also seen four straight years of above-trend yields along with three new records established. At 52 bu/ac, the 2016 crop set the bar high, with last year’s 49.1 bu/ac coming in at a somewhat distant second place. This year, once corn planting concerns dissipated, this allowed for timely planting of soy as well, and the crop appears to be off to a great start. Current satellite greenness data suggest that another above-trend crop is in the making, but one should temper expectations at this early juncture. Soybean yields are notorious for being difficult to pin down early in the season because yields can be greatly influenced, positively or negatively, by late-season (Aug/Sep) growing conditions.

At the moment, US corn and soy yield prospects appear favorable. However, it is looking like June temperatures will trend above average across the Midwestern Corn Belt, with precipitation totals expected to be mostly average or below. The situation heading into the core summer months is murkier, with a wide range of weather outcomes currently being predicted by different forecasting groups. As in most years, much uncertainty remains about how the 2018 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 1989-2017 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 began on March 21. In addition to winter wheat, forecasting for seven other crops (including corn and soybeans) began on May 30. 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 2018 represents KARS-TMAI’s 17th 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