Let there be corn! Reality check on the 2012 drought and corn yields in relation to droughts of the past

There’s a lot of hype out there regarding the drought and its potential effects on crops. Predictions range from increased food prices to dustbowlification”, a term coined by “Joe Romm. A complicit media follows. Tom Nelson points out some interesting facts:

Drought to cost $12B, most since 1988 – USATODAY.com

The Kiwis think otherwise though, from radio New Zealand: July 26, 2012 : Worst drought in 50 years driving up US food prices

Food prices in the United States are expected to rise by 3% or 4% next year because of the worst drought in more than 50 years.  Corn, soybean and other commodity prices have all soared in recent weeks as fields dry out and crops wither in the heat. The drought, which is affecting much of the Midwest, is the worst since 1956.

What Drought Did to Crop Yields in the 1930s – Livinghistory.com

In 1930, Nebraska got 22 inches of rain, and the state’s corn crop averaged 25 bushels per acre. In 1934, Nebraska saw the driest year on record with only 14.5 inches of rainfall. The state’s corn crop dropped even more to only 6.2 bushels per acre.

[July 19, 2012]:  2012 Potential Corn Yields Based on July 15 Hybrid-Maize Model Simulations – UNL CropWatch, July

[See table 1 here: For five Nebraska locations, median forecasted yields for rainfed corn are 118-130 bushels per acre; for irrigated corn, the median forecasted yields are 228-245 bushels per acre]

From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

Stars indicate the sites for which in-season yield forecasting were performed using the Hybrid-Maize model with actual weather and dominant management practices and soil series at each site. Weather data were retrieved from High Plain Regional Climate Center (HPRCC) and the Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring Program (WARM) through the Illinois Climate Network (Illinois State Water Survey [ICWS], Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign).

End-of-Season Yield Potentials as of July 15

Corn Yield Potential (Yp) forecasts, as well as the underpinning data used for the simulations, can be seen in Table 1. The long-term yield potential prediction based on 30 years of weather data (Table 1, fourth column from the right) is compared to the range of predicted 2012 corn yield potential (three columns on the right), which includes the yield potential simulated under the most likely scenario of weather expected for the rest of the season (median) and for relatively favorable and unfavorable scenarios for the rest of the season (75th and 25th percentiles) based on historical weather data.

According to the July 15 simulations, the “most likely” end-of-season dryland corn yield potential in Nebraska, Iowa, and southeastern Illinois (“median” yields, red column in Table 1) is 10% to 26% below the long-term average yield potential (Table 1). Even if weather turns favorable for dryland corn during the rest of the 2012 season, the resulting yields (75th yields, blue column in Table 1) are still likely to be below the long-term average (Table 1). How about if dry and hot conditions persist? Certainly the likehood and magnitude of yield reduction in dryland corn will increase. In fact, Hybrid-Maize predicts dryland corn yield potential to be about 30% to 40% below the long-term average if weather remains hot and dry for the rest of the season (25th yields, green column in Table 1). The only bright spots in this analysis were in Illinois at DeKalb and Monmouth where rainfall during the past two weeks appears to have provided relief. At these sites, current projects indicate that end-of-season yields will be near their long-term averages unless weather once again turns dry and hot at those locations (Table 1). Likewise, recent weather conditions at Brookings, S.D. have been conducive to achieve yields near the long-term average.

What about irrigated corn in Nebraska? Contrary to the projections for dryland corn, irrigated corn yield potential is only two to three bushels below the long-term average at Holdrege, Mead, and Concord (Table 1). High nighttime temperatures during the last two weeks at Clay Center have hastened crop development and increased nighttime respiration costs, leading to a projected yield potential that is 9 bushels below the long-term average. At O’Neill last week’s weather did not depart from historical temperature norms, hence, projected yield potential is still near-average. But it is important to keep in mind that if hot weather persists for the rest of the season, the likehood (and magnitude) of below-average yields will increase for irrigated corn due to more rapid maturation and a shorter grain-filling period.

Summary

Projected 2012 end-of-season yields are well below the long-term yield average for dryland corn in Nebraska, Iowa, and southeastern Illinois and near average in South Dakota and central-west Illinois. Projected yield for irrigated corn in Nebraska is slightly below average at most locations, except for Clay Center, which it’s 9 bushels below average and O’Neill where it’s near average. If hot, dry conditions persist during coming weeks, we expect projected yields will drop substantially under both dryland and irrigated conditions. We will continue to update these projections as the season progresses.

==============================================================

The reality check is: Even with the bad news of reduced yields of regular corn at 22-42 bu/ac below average, and  trrigated corn  at 2-9 bu/ac below average,  2012 Nebraska corn yields are still forecasted to be 20-40 times the  1934 Nebraska corn yields.

Yes it was really so much worse in the 1930′s than the present:

h/t to Steve Goddard and this EPA report for the above graph and points.

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103 thoughts on “Let there be corn! Reality check on the 2012 drought and corn yields in relation to droughts of the past

  1. Family members farming in southern IL are reporting ZERO bushels/acre unless significant and immediate rain relief occurs. Soy is also on the ropes.

  2. irrigation means that ground water is up, probably due to the high snow levels last winter. We must not forget that ”corn” or maize as we call it, has had much genetic modification to resist drought etc.. Combination of both probably.
    So ”the end” recedes yet again.

  3. How seriously should we take the University Nebraska-Lincoln if they can’t tell Indiana from Ohio?

  4. Dunno how good their science is but their geography is crap.

    Even from as far away as London, England I know that the state due east of Minnesota is Wisconsin. Not Wyoming as labelled on the map.

    Bad mistake.

  5. Interesting that one of the key points – “The recent period of increasing heat is distinguished by a rise in extremely high nighttime temperatures.” – is a predicted AGW signature since greenhouse gases trap the heat.

  6. Bushels per acre? Really???

    Not only has the rest of the world agreed to a single system of units, it’s also agreed to measure yields in weight per area, not volume per area.

  7. To put that statement “In 1930, Nebraska got 22 inches of rain, and the state’s corn crop averaged 25 bushels per acre. In 1934, Nebraska saw the driest year on record with only 14.5 inches of rainfall. The state’s corn crop dropped even more to only 6.2 bushels per acre.” into proper perspective her is information from the Agricultural Extension Service The University of Tennessee

    The average yield 55 years ago was about 20 to 25 bushels per acre, which was no better than the yields recorded 100 years ago. Tennessee farmers increased corn yields from 35 bushels per acre in 1955, to about 40 bushels in 1960, to 50 bushels in 1965, to 85 bushels in 1979.
    Statewide averages continued to increase from 98 bushels in 1985 to 107 bushels in 1989 and 114 bushels in 2000. The record average yield of 124 bushels per acre was obtained in 1992….

    Basics of Corn Production in North Dakota “…Grain yield of corn in the state has increased at a remarkable rate in the recent past, with yields now consistently averaging over 100 bushels per acre….”

    GEE, it sure looks like “Global Warming” and CO2 is INCREASING the corn yields and how! even in colder than hades North Dakota

  8. It would be cool to see an animation of the drought development. Anyway in Pittsburgh NOAA’s current outlook (as of 7/19) puts us in a region of drought development, but it has been quite rainy over the past week, enough to erase a small but noticeable portion of the year’s rainfall deficit (which was positive as of June 1 and then it basically didn’t rain for 6 weeks). Next outlook – improvement?

  9. Monthly US wheat and corn prices going back to 1784 – Nominal first.

    Real terms – adjusted for estimated CPI inflation.

  10. The good news is that Northern Indiana where I live has gotten good rain in the last 10 days. That will help the crops but the very stunted 3-4 feet tall corn will yield only 20-35% of normal yields even with the recent rain. Soybeans will probably recover better. Farming in the midwest will probably become a difficult proposition when we start getting severe droughts much more frequently. The new hybrids give much better yields with less water, but almost no rain from early May to mid-July was a disaster. In the future we can probably rely on Canada for corn as well as wheat.

  11. Yeah, Tom, bushels per acre. Welcome to the democracy of the agricultural dead. Makes it kind of hard to sell our agricultural database services abroad when we’re locked into Imperial standards, but that’s the industry standards in the US.

    (Unless you’re talking about cotton – lbs/Ac or bales/Ac, or potatoes in hundredweight per acre. At least I haven’t seen anyone citing rice in barrels per acre since the late Oughts, everybody seems to have standardized on bushels per acre in rice, finally.)

  12. Note that Figure 1 in this article only goes to 2008. Rain has been fine over recent years up until this year. How can we talk about the current drought and “up until the present” with data that only goes to 2008?

  13. I was just about to write off, a fine stand of corn, due to 2 months of drought. Got 1.6 inches of rain last night. This will completely turn around this 7-8′ high stand. Corn is amazing when it gets what it needs – heat plus moisture. Well… it is grass, after all. GK

  14. It sure was a double whammy, to have the worst drought that devastated agriculture, right in the middle of the Great Depression.

  15. PS For all geographically challenged persons,
    don’t be confused by OH being east of IL.

    From living in Indiana, IN should be east of IL (NOT OH).

  16. Tom says:
    July 26, 2012 at 7:04 am
    Bushels per acre? Really???

    “Not only has the rest of the world agreed to a single system of units, it’s also agreed to measure yields in weight per area, not volume per area.”

    Not to argue what’s been agreed upon, but grain moisture content would bugger the numbers worse using weight rather than volume.

  17. Fred Bauer says:
    July 26, 2012 at 6:29 am

    How seriously should we take the University Nebraska-Lincoln if they can’t tell Indiana from Ohio?
    ___________________________
    Yeah,
    If this is what a college puts out, it looks like it is time to pull the plug on funding. And here I thought my opinion of US academia had already hit bottom.

  18. Looks like the earth moved for Americans! I would have thought it would have been to hot for that sort of thing in a heatwave, especially with the hot nights!

  19. “Interesting that one of the key points – “The recent period of increasing heat is distinguished by a rise in extremely high nighttime temperatures.” – is a predicted AGW signature since greenhouse gases trap the heat.”

    Really? Try atmosphereic compression due to desending air a result of high pressure.

  20. Fred Bauer says:
    “How seriously should we take the University Nebraska-Lincoln if they can’t tell Indiana from Ohio?”

    Latimer Alder says:
    “Even from as far away as London, England I know that the state due east of Minnesota is Wisconsin. Not Wyoming as labelled on the map.”

    Come on. It’s model output. What do you want, accuracy?

  21. Bill Illis
    The background color makes those charts very difficult to read. Or is there a way for me to make that adjustment?

  22. I think geography isn’t taught anymore from the looks of things.
    My Mom’s family were/are cattlemen in NW Kansas have been
    since 1870′s .1934 was their worst year ever. In the Pac NW in NE
    Oregon , My Pop’s family also ranchers, 1934 was their worst
    ever too. Anecdotal,but there was something about ’34 that was
    extra-ordinary…

  23. There has been a huge change in crop yields over time. New hybrids, chemicals, fertilizer applications, and other changes in farming techniques mean that there is no direct comparison for yields from the 30′s till today. If the average yield today dropped to what it was in a good year in the 30′s it would be a disaster.

  24. CAGW continually employ two public relations tricks, often used by politicians, to send their message. First release to a gullible press statistics regarding a matter that the local population would have no base knowledge about. Hence in New Zealand statistics on American droughts or in America stories on the Greenland ice sheet that are false but confirm a vague understanding of AGW. Secondly release highly localized anecdotal stories about the effects of CAGW that are too localized for broad academic derision. Such as a near seaside roadway being endangered by rising sea levels, even though that would be impossible in the given time frame.

  25. “Vince Causey says:
    July 26, 2012 at 7:51 am
    It sure was a double whammy, to have the worst drought that devastated agriculture, right in the middle of the Great Depression.”

    Talk about history repeating itself …

  26. G. Karst says:
    July 26, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I was just about to write off, a fine stand of corn, due to 2 months of drought. Got 1.6 inches of rain last night. This will completely turn around this 7-8′ high stand. Corn is amazing when it gets what it needs – heat plus moisture. Well… it is grass, after all. GK
    _____________________________
    Yes, the corn down the street has just shot up with all the recent thunderstorms hitting mid NC. Farming has always been a crap shoot. Too early cold rain and the seed rots in the ground, then there is wilt, beetles, summer drought and early frost…

    What really hit me about all this media attention to corn and crops are these three old articles combined with the paywall to the USDAs real data on crops.I can’t find that old 2007 link since the website has been reorganized, but there is Safeguarding America’s Agricultural Statistics and Special Tabulations A friend has a college age student who works for the USDA CropScape The kid said you could count the cows in fields.

    To me the whole thing stinks of rigging the system in the food commodities casino. Create the illusion of scarcity and then bet the correct way to win big.

    In summary, we have record low grain inventories globally as we move into a new crop year. We have demand growing strongly. Which means that going forward even small crop failures are going to drive grain prices to record levels. As an investor, we continue to find these long term trends…very attractive. Food shortfalls predicted: 2008 http://www.financialsense.com/fsu/editorials/dancy/2008/0104.html

    “Recently there have been increased calls for the development of a U.S. or international grain reserve to provide priority access to food supplies for Humanitarian needs. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) strongly advise against this concept. Stock reserves have a documented depressing effect on prices… and resulted in less aggressive market bidding for the grains. July 22, 2008 letter to President Bush http://www.naega.org/images/pdf/grain_reserves_for_food_aid.pdf

    And here are the winners

    …Bankers recognized a good system when they saw it, and dozens of speculative non-physical hedgers followed Goldman’s lead and joined the commodities index game, including Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Pimco, JP Morgan Chase, AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers, to name but a few purveyors of commodity index funds. The scene had been set for food inflation

    …In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008…

    … money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives.
    … Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. ….In a recently published briefing note, Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, concluded that in 2008 “a significant portion of the price spike was due to the emergence of a speculative bubble.”

    What was happening to the grain markets was not the result of “speculation” in the traditional sense of buying low and selling high. Today, along with the cumulative index, the Standard & Poors GSCI provides 219 distinct index “tickers,” so investors can boot up their Bloomberg system and bet on everything from palladium to soybean oil, biofuels to feeder cattle. But the boom in new speculative opportunities in global grain, edible oil, and livestock markets has created a vicious cycle. The more the price of food commodities increases, the more money pours into the sector, and the higher prices rise. Indeed, from 2003 to 2008, the volume of index fund speculation increased by 1,900 percent….

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/27/how_goldman_sachs_created_the_food_crisis?page=0,1

    Added a different dimension to the whole article doesn’t it?

  27. Using potential yields here instead of projected actual yields. The lottery ticket in my wallet is potentially worth millions, but I’ll sell it to you for a hundred dollars.

  28. “Really? Try atmosphereic compression due to desending air a result of high pressure.”
    It sure would be interesting to find out why this didn’t happen before 1970.

  29. Well, Ohio and Indiana are both east of Illinois, and all those east coast states look alike anyway. As for Wysconsin, Canadian provinces look alike, too.

    As I recall, back in the 50′s, 100 bu/acre corn would buy the new Caddy. Several things have improved crop yields since the early 20th century, hybrid seed, dense planting, and CO2 fertilization. For soybeans, it looks like CO2 is the main culprit in the better yields.

  30. Gail Combs says in a quote:
    July 26, 2012 at 9:18 am
    … Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. ….In a recently published briefing note, Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, concluded that in 2008 “a significant portion of the price spike was due to the emergence of a speculative bubble.”
    =====================

    Gail, I’m a little confused with your post here and your posts on the recent corn/bioethanol thread.

    Surely, this is the real reason for the price spikes (across the board and not just corn), and not what you were arguing over there.

    Apologies if I’m misrepresenting your comments. I haven’t been back there to read them all again.

  31. Uhm, wouldn’t a year with “below average” rainfall be pretty typical? As in, aren’t a significant number of years “below average”? Why are they framing this report in such a way as it would lead the reader to expect average or above average rainfall and any amount “below average” is somehow a crisis? Below average should happen quite frequently. In fact, if it is in a place that sometimes sees extremely wet weather that can skew the average (such as in California), the annual precipitation might be “below average” more often than it is above average.

  32. Bill Illis says:
    July 26, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Monthly US wheat and corn prices going back to 1784 – Nominal first.

    Real terms – adjusted for estimated CPI inflation.

    I agree with previous poster that background color choice is literally about the worst color you could choose for those images. It would be great if you could shift that to a more neutral color like a light gray where both colors would have good contrast to the background.

    That said it is sort of inconvenient that the graphs show that corn and wheat in real terms are near the cheapest they have ever been in historical terms, and comparable to prices in the recent past when we had similar economic problems.

    Those who are dwelling on the drought losses keep in mind that often for every area that is seeing a down turn in crop production there is another area somewhere that is seeing better than average conditions. Often the two more or less balance out on a world market.

    Larry

  33. Gail Combs’ cited observations about the effects of speculation by major banks and other purveyors of commodities index funds on commodity prices is probably far more important than any drought news. Unfortunately, it only indirectly relates to climate.

  34. The Columbia River provides irrigation to central Washington and still flows at the mouth of about 265,000 cubic feet per second (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_River ) .
    The Mississippi River discharges at an annual average rate of between 200 and 700 thousand cubic feet per second (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River).
    Obviously, the irrigation used from the Columbia River is not draining the river dry. With all the water that flows into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi drainage area I see not why there is not some investment to use more irrigation practices rather than all the bemoaning over drought. It seems the issue it not how much rain the Midwest receives, but when it receives it. There are things we can control and there are things we cannot control.
    We subsidize farming; we have to eat; we depend on the Midwest for crops; make sure they don’t fail during the growing season, which is really the wet season.

  35. Brazil corn = $290/ ton (metric) at nation’s port, vs.USA corn = $345/ metric ton at Gulf of Mexico port & biggest pork producer Smithfield Foods early this week announced they will import Brazilian corn. Brazil’s projection is for 70 million metric tons of corn this year.
    Bushel calculations always annoyed me to do conversions too. For those who care: Corn’s September Futures Trading a week ago was $8.28 &3/4 a bushel this week was $7.80 &1/2.

  36. @SocialBlunder
    “Interesting that one of the key points – “The recent period of increasing heat is distinguished by a rise in extremely high nighttime temperatures.” – is a predicted AGW signature since greenhouse gases trap the heat.”

    If you want such a general statement to be taken seriously you gotta put some numbers on it. The anticipated AGW signature is how much? And this is discernable from natural variation by which process? And the ‘extremely high nighttime temperatures’ are how much higher?

    ‘Prediction’ implies falsification scenarios. What exactly is the falsification scenario for AGW? How many years of cooling would suffice?

    According to several warmist visitors to this blog, greenhouse gases don’t ‘trap the heat’ quite the way they used to, apparently. The goal posts have been moved. You should keep up. We were told for years that they trap the heat at 8-12km altitude in the tropics and there would be a definitive hotspot in the troposphere that is embarassingly missing.

    First GHG’s do not ‘trap heat’ they absorb and re-radiate it with water being by far the most efficient and plentiful member of that family. Maybe there is an increase in atmospheric water vapour at night… oh wait, ‘it’s a drought’.

    Is the hot spot perhaps secretly appearing at night and keeping temperatures up? There is no meaningful change in the daytime highs in summer – did you know that? Have you looked at the records at the National Weather Service? You can search by season and notice the continental 30 year cooling trend if you want.

  37. RE: “Speculative opportunities in food”

    Great – Goldmann Sachs ‘goes farming’. Farming money that is, at the expense of the farmer and the public. Is anyone surprised? Maybe they can corner the corn market and run the price up to triple the present number. Just think of the profits they could make! If they took a global view they could pry the last red cent from the bony hands of every (still) living human soul! There is no limit to the profits that could be made by rampant speculation and monopoly control of the food sector. How is it that this opportunity was missed before? Oh, I remember: it was illegal!

  38. They’ve corrected the state labels on the original article.

    And just when I was going to blame it on the ignorance of a geeky grad assistant!

  39. “The reality check is: Even with the bad news of reduced yields of regular corn at 22-42 bu/ac below average, and trrigated corn at 2-9 bu/ac below average, 2012 Nebraska corn yields are still forecasted to be 20-40 times the 1934 Nebraska corn yields.”

    This statement is misleading and has less to do with the weather than with the new super-hybrids that are very drought resistant, and with modern farming techniques.

    I live, work and travel frequently across Central and Southern Illinois and this year is as bad or worse than 1988. Most farmers are expecting a 70% drop in yields, and in the hardest hit areas, many have already plowed their fields under (the cost to harvest exceeds the expected yield revenue).

    Were it not for huge advancements in hybridization it’s likely we would have total crop failure across at least half of the corn belt.

  40. It’s usually rather dry in the midwest in July and August. The problem this year is that it was exceptionally dry in May and June and not that wet in April. With much warmer weather in spring, it will be interesting to see if farmers will start planting corn in late March instread of late April/early May. Of course, there has also been an increase in years with spring flooding.

  41. When you start using change in food prices as a measure, or impact costs, then the impacts of extreme weather will seem worse in the past. The reasons are

    1. Farmers are more adaptable and have greater investment in irrigation than in the past.
    2. Crops are more resilient to extremes, and both pest control and fertilisers are far better than in the past.
    3. Impact on food prices is less as the food market has shifted from local to global and the diet has become more varied. In the early 1970s in Britain there was a major crisis when the potato crop failed due to a drought. Now supplies of potatoes can be imported, and people eat far more rice and pasta.

    This is important for policy. If the climate does get more extreme (for which there is little or no hard evidence), the best way to offset the hardship in the poorest countries is economic development. Policies to alleviate global warming by restraining growth in fossil fuel consumption (and thus economic growth), are likely to make the impacts of global warming on the poorest greater than no policy at all. This is assuming that the bigger developing nations do little or nothing to curb their emissions.

  42. Like a couple of other readers, I think this statement

    “The reality check is: Even with the bad news of reduced yields of regular corn at 22-42 bu/ac below average, and trrigated corn at 2-9 bu/ac below average, 2012 Nebraska corn yields are still forecasted to be 20-40 times the 1934 Nebraska corn yields.”

    is a poor one to make. Trying to make comparisons to crop [yields] between the 30′s and today sounds a lot like some of the poorly reasoned claims we hear from CAGW advocates. While I understand the frustration over ill informed media hyping a weather condition and trying to milk it for all the global warming PR they can, presenting poor counterpoints is a fail.

  43. Crispin – please address your concerns about quantificaton and validity of nighttime heat to the author of the blog entry. I simply quoted the Key Points block at the bottom of the entry “The recent period of increasing heat is distinguished by a rise in extremely high nighttime temperatures.” I too would like to know how much hotter it has gotten at night.

  44. Chris says:
    July 26, 2012 at 8:51 am
    Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says:
    July 26, 2012 at 9:52 am
    —————–

    The background is white. Sometimes, people get linked into an imageshack chart that has a black background. Try a search of the image through google images. Anyone else having a problem seeing it.

  45. …and a policy of increasing the cost of energy, the cost of transportation, the cost of labor, the cost of restrictive regulation is also a price factor of supply/demand.
    Dairy production is a good example of over-regulating.
    Food cost in January 2002

    http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2002/CostofFoodJan02.pdf

    Food cost in January 2012

    http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJan2012.pdf

    Conservatively a 137% increase for monthly family of four.
    Price increase of fuel in 10 years over 200%.

    http://www.neo.ne.gov/statshtml/96.htm

    Jan 2002 $1.23
    Jan 2012 $3.79
    Increase in unemployment in 10 years over 200%
    The whole issue of tonnage production during “droughts” seems pale.

  46. High yields in the past have resulted in spite of bad news. What you can count on is the farmers producing the highest yield possible.

  47. philincalifornia says:
    July 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Gail, I’m a little confused with your post here and your posts on the recent corn/bioethanol thread.
    _____________________
    Sorry to confuse. I was trying to point out there is more than one factor contributing and the News Media focuses on only on the one factor that pleases their ‘financial interests’. From what I can see you have:

    #1. WTO (1995) did away with import tariffs on grain by third world countries. (WTO Agreement on Ag Written by VP of Cargill Dan Amstutz)

    #2. Freedom to Farm bill (1996) essentially did away with the practice of grain reserves and increased the acres put into grain by the USA. (Written by VP of Cargill Dan Amstutz)

    #3. Biofuel opened another market for grain. (ADM biggest all time political contributor to Dems & Reps scored big in biofuel)

    #4. The financial traders got into the act with commodity price speculative gambling. (Dan Amstutz was hired by Goldman Sachs who created the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index in 1991 and made a killing in 2008)

    #5. The Government – Corporate – Lobbyist revolving door that make sure laws and regs are advantageous to the big corporations and not the consumers or small businessmen.

    #6. The Mass Media knows who funds their advertising budget and who owns their loans. See Derry Brownfield

    Like the earth’s climate, the machiavellian game playing in the Ag sector is much more convoluted than most people realize and the MSM makes sure only the news that is “advantages” reaches the masses.

    I wonder how many innocent dupes are sinking money into the commodities market thinking the world grain harvest is going to be poor thanks to this and other stories?

    Can you see the dual purpose of the story now?
    Farm Futures has this :Jul 19, 2012 story: Drought’s Intensity is Impressive on Satellite Imagery yet my area (see image 2 & 3), mid NC is not particularly dry. Actually except for a ten day stretch the rain has been better than normal for summer and my grass is growing well as are my neighbors corn fields.

    Farm Futures also has Quick Quotes on the commodities market.

    Notice how no one mentions this from the USDA

    …U.S. Farmers Plant the Largest Corn Crop Since 1937

    Washington, June 29, 2012 – U.S. farmers planted 96.4 million acres of corn, up 5 percent from last year, making it the highest corn acreage in the last 75 years, according to the Acreage report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This marks the fourth year in a row of increases in corn acreage in the United States.

    Favorable field conditions across much of the major corn-producing region helped corn growers get off to a fast start in 2012. By May 20, the planting was nearly complete, representing the quickest planting pace on record. Virtually all of the acreage had emerged by June 3.

    U.S. soybean growers also reported a significant acreage increase this year. According to the report, 76.1 million acres have been planted to soybeans, up 1 percent from 2011. This is the third-largest soybean acreage on record….

    http://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2012/06_29_2012.asp

  48. highflight56433 says July 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

    The Columbia River provides irrigation to central Washington and still flows at the mouth of about 265,000 cubic feet per second (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_River ) .

    The Mississippi River discharges at an annual average rate of between 200 and 700 thousand cubic feet per second (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River).

    Obviously, the irrigation used from the Columbia River is not draining the river dry. With all the water that flows into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi drainage area I see not why there is not some investment to use more irrigation practices rather than all the bemoaning over drought.

    (Bolding added above by me)

    A) Ever drive along I-40 west of Memphis? Those small V-shaped roofed awnings over what look like V-8 engines connected to dynamos are actually pumps (pumping ground water by the looks of it)

    B) The Mississippi is low this year … in times of drought, the rivers would seem to be affected too (mild sarc) …

    C) Notice in the lead post the reference at one point to “for irrigated corn”; obviously, someone is irrigating some corn … but to irrigate _all_ corn, or at least have the facilities in place to irrigate all corm BUT have those facilities stand idle most years doe not seem to appeal to the economical ‘sense’ of those raising corn …

    .

  49. @dave

    ‘Map appears to be fixed on the source site.

    Another triumph for the blogosphere over ‘pal review’!. And it shows that they read – and are frightened by – what we write. As well as exposing their poverty of their ‘quality control’.

  50. Dave says:
    July 26, 2012 at 10:36 am
    Map appears to be fixed on the source site

    Nope, click on “see larger version” PDF link.

  51. Fred Bauer says:
    July 26, 2012 at 6:29 am
    How seriously should we take the University Nebraska-Lincoln if they can’t tell Indiana from Ohio?
    ==========================================================================
    At least they didn’t call Michigan Ohio.

  52. What everyone seems to be missing here is that the prices of quite a number products will go up significantly as a result of this expected corn yield, including energy prices (ethanol). That won’t hit till late this year and next year. Trade balance will take a hit, and there may be riots in 3rd world countries over the prices. Some companies and commodity players will make a lot of money, and some will lose a lot of money.

    Most farmers will not suffer as a result of the lower yield due to govt. insurance ( perhaps $4 billion total insurance claims ).

    It will become a plank in the current election, and will give ammo to the “save the planet” contingent.

  53. I’m a little worried about these folks. They make claims about “southeastern Illinois”, but the map of places sampled has southern Illinois totally chopped off, and no stars for simulated sampled locations in, you know, “southeastern Illinois” (ditto the locations in the table). There’s still a lot of corn country south of Springfield and Decatur, and quite a bit in Missouri, Indiana and Ohio, for that matter. And then they have Indiana labeled as OHio. Their “simulations” of the bread-basket are definitely flawed.

    Ah, yes, the U of Nebraska site at least has the label for INdiana corrected.

  54. http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/wheat-prices-are-good—-for-those-with/article_783971c6-8e8e-55fd-81d3-a42d46aaf207.html

    Wheat prices are good… for those with a crop
    “Protein levels in the winter wheat rolling into Moore vary from 9% in areas near Jordan, where late rains hurt crop quality, to 17% where dry, hot weather ahead of harvest drove up protein and increased crop value. It’s the high protein level that makes Montana wheat sought after worldwide for pasta.”

  55. There is some evidence that increased atmospheric CO2 can make plants more drought resistant but in the research I have seen, it requires much higher concentrations than are currently seen in the atmosphere.

  56. In the 30′s farmers were still using horses, and the rule of thumb for corn was “knee high by the fourth of July.” Now most corn fields are over your head by the fourth, and other than a little ethanol and biodiesel the horsepower is fossil based. No need to dedicate part of the farm to provide feed for the horses.

  57. “…BUT have those facilities stand idle most years does not seem to appeal to the economical ‘sense’ of those raising corn.”

    However, they who do not irrigate enough or not at all sure like to make economic claim for federal relief and subsidies. Why invest…just get some “free” money. And by the way, central Washington receives about 7 – 10 inches of rain per year. Those corn rows and other row crops are ALL irrigated and the equipment lies idle between harvest and the next planting.
    Idaho and Washington potatoes are all irrigated. Never here chat about drought stricken crops. How about those grapes? No irrigation plan… fewer grapes.
    Just pointing to different culture of thinking between those poor corn belt drought stricken farms in the mid-west. That goes for the tobacco industry as well. What a lobby of friends they must have.

    Invest in an irrigation infrastructure. We can’t eat bail outs.

  58. @Curious George who said: “Most farmers will not suffer as a result of the lower yield due to govt. insurance ( perhaps $4 billion total insurance claims ).”

    That is not true. The insurance program only covers a portion of the average yield of the farm or tract. The insurance payment will not nearly cover the cost of inputs. Also, less than 60% of the corn farmers buy the insurance. The insurance cannot be purchased retroactively.

    The drought will devastate an enormous number of corn farmers, especially those who cash rent their production acres. It will also hurt seed producers, elevators, seasonal employees, machinery manufacturers and dealers, etc., etc.

  59. highflight56433 says July 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Invest in an irrigation infrastructure. We can’t eat bail outs.

    Here’s the rub: same farmers/corporations/farming companies are ‘betting’ on an easy return (I’ll spell it out: some ppl/orgs simply put a crop in the ground and hope there is return, if there is, a cheap bet just paid off); we aren’t hurting for foodstuffs or the raw feedstock for other uses … as a poster Larry Ledwick/hotrod up-thread pointed out, other areas of the country are producing/reaping a harvest (or will be shortly) for foodstuffs (or feedstock for other use).

    It would help to understand the economic ‘bets’/gambles some of these people/companies (doing or engaged in) farming make, rather than make ‘blanket’ prescriptions for across the board cures … if you ‘push’ for national irrigation infrastructure, I’m afraid you’re going to get national government (as opposed to private investment/problem solution) involved with a lot of taxpayer money mis-managed, mis-spent with the usual overall waste and inefficiency of government …

    .

  60. _Jim says:
    July 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm
    ….It would help to understand the economic ‘bets’/gambles some of these people/companies (doing or engaged in) farming make, rather than make ‘blanket’ prescriptions for across the board cures … if you ‘push’ for national irrigation infrastructure, I’m afraid you’re going to get national government (as opposed to private investment/problem solution) involved with a lot of taxpayer money mis-managed, mis-spent with the usual overall waste and inefficiency of government …
    ____________________________________
    I am with you on that _Jim. I do not think city people understand just how much land 96.4 million acres (150,625 sq miles) of corn , 76.1 million acres (118,906 sq miles) of soybeans , and 56 million acres (97,500 sq miles) of wheat really is. Farmers irrigate veggie and fruit crops because they are high dollar/low volume (Think California). It is easier to plant the correct crop varieties for your area instead.

    The other problem is water. If there is a drought your farm pond, use for irrigating, is down sometimes to nothing but mud and you sure as heck are not going to use your well water. During the last drought I was supplying water to three other families because I had the only decent well on the top of the ridge where I live. The streams were dry and the river was rocks with puddles because all the water was supplying the city reservoirs. And those reservoirs were down about three feet from the normal shoreline. Needless to say there was a ‘hose pipe’ ban. For what it is worth my grasses (carefully chosen for drought resistance) made it through the drought just fine but my neighbors had to replant their pastures of Kentucky 31 fescue.

  61. Ms. Combs is so correct. The media dire reports are 99% scam to manipulate the commodities futures market. Best investor strategy: short corn while the prices are astronomical. That’s what the big boys are doing. Don’t worry about $5 ears, because that’s NOT going to happen.

  62. The July USDA Crop Report – the one that was issued after their downgrade of the current crop – showed:

    Even after the downgrade, which was before the recent rains in much of the corn belt, the estimated corn crop is projected to be 12,720 million bushels, almost exactly the same as 2011 and 2010′s 12,358 and 12,447 respectively.

    Corn used for ethanol was 5,021 million/bushels in 2010, 5,050 in 2011, and was originally projected at 5,450 for 2012. Current projection is 4,900 million bushels – 150 million bushels less than last year.

    The USDA reports also show the US remains the largest corn exporter in the world – by a huge margin – in 2011 and 2012 we provided 41% of the total corn export for the world – the next closest are Argentina and the Ukraine at 14-16% each.

    Mexico is the largest beneficiary of our exports – we’ve increased our export to Mexico of White Corn – which is the real “food” corn for them – from 229 to 581 million metric tonnes – over 2.5 times more food corn went to Mexico from 2005 to 2010/11

    That said, the US is experiencing stiff price competition for corn – as noted above. Argentina and others are priced significantly less than the US.

    Again – the current estimated 2012 corn crop is nearly identical to 2010 and 2011 – the claim that there will be huge shortages causing big prices increases is not based in fact. And the last few days rains and the cooler temps at least in upper Midwest, will IMO increase the yields well above the lower estimate from USDA.

  63. Yeah, I noticed that, too. How did Wyoming migrate up to the Great Lakes? And when did Ohio annex Indiana? All this “Change” business is going way too far; it’s downright disorienting!

  64. india sitting on 75 million tons of foodgrain stocks….come buy some before it goes to waste

  65. Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says: July 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Bill Illis says:July 26, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Changed both charts to grey background:
    http://i49.tinypic.com/2w6do9y.jpg raw corn/wheat prices
    http://i47.tinypic.com/14uygi8.jpg CPI adjusted prices

    The originals did have a white background, however neither axis labeling came through in simply copying the image…weird. Had to use a screen capture to get the pics with the axis’ labels.

  66. I’d like to know if my charts are not coming through properly. I post alot of them and it takes awhile to put them together. They look fine on the three computers I use.

    The wheat and corn prices chart show that real prices have generally been declining over time, but not that much. They go up primarily during War years (very clear), or periods of supply problems such as the early 1800s cold period, the Russian crop failures in the early 1970s, the ethanol mandate in the US/economic growth in Asia.

  67. A. Scott says:
    July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    The July USDA Crop Report – the one that was issued after their downgrade of the current crop – showed:

    Even after the downgrade, which was before the recent rains in much of the corn belt, the estimated corn crop is projected to be 12,720 million bushels, almost exactly the same as 2011 and 2010′s 12,358 and 12,447 respectively.

    Absolutely true the amounts are almost the same. What is not the same is the number of mouths that want that food. The US and world population is increasing (the US mainly through immigration). So at the Thanksgiving table you now have an extra 4 seats but “almost exactly the same as 2011 and 2010″ amount of food. There are no US reserves as the holding of reserves pushed down prices. Paul Ehrlich’s bomb was defused by the continual increase in food output. Perhaps it will start ticking again.

  68. @SocialBlunder

    “Crispin – please address your concerns about quantificaton and validity of nighttime heat to the author of the blog entry.”

    Noted and thanks. Yes they need to put numbers on the claims for big changes in night time temps. Hubris as far as I can see.

    The discussion above about the total yield compared with other years is very helpful. It seems that whatever is taking place re temperatures, it is really helping the total food crop, all developments considered.

    I note the doubling of exports to Mexico. This has had the effect of driving most farmers in N and NW Mexico out of business and has introduced GM genes into virtually every established local (historical) variety. In other words the gene bank and the farmers are being lost because of subsidised maize from the USA. I doubt this is a good thing.

  69. Several posters have made comments regarding the fact that the corn belt has gotten a few inches of rain over the past week. The term that comes to mind regarding that rainfall is:
    “Day late and a dollar short”
    Corn, even the GM versions much of the US uses, needs a steady supply of water. Ideally around 1.75 inches per week. Some areas went 5-6 weeks without significant rainfall <0.5 inches. This lack of rainfall was during the time when corn is normally 'stalking up' and when the ears were forming.
    This period of dry will cause a double whammy hit on yields, as the stalks were small when the ears were forming, we will see less per stalk; and we will have much smaller ears due to the lack of water when the ears were budding.
    Not that I am unhappy with us finally seeing rain, but coming now, the best we can hope for is to see the ears fill out well, but considering that the rain we have been seeing is only slightly above the 1.75" per week that corn prefers, that is a hope.
    Now, if we want to look at the soy bean crop, prepare for real despair.

  70. Bill Illis says: July 27, 2012 at 6:12 am

    I’d like to know if my charts are not coming through properly.

    Bill, I gave some misinformation at 5:09 am, had no coffee yet. The original charts came up with a black background, with orange and green plot lines; not a white background as I stated earlier.
    I could not get the axis labels to come through by simply copying the picture. I had to do a screen capture. I inverted the colors on the whole graph to get a white(almost) background, leaving the text white, so I dampened the mid-range levels of the picture to enhance the contrast with the white text, ie. darker grey background.

  71. There are some folks here who are gonna be really, really surprised at the yield reports when the combines roll. The initial USDA forecast in Jan was ridiculously high, and they are still ridiculously high. One needs to look at the World Agricutural Supply and Demand reports to see where we are.

  72. But demand for corn is at least a little higher today than it was in the 1930′s, including exports, use in fuels, as animal feed, and for human consumption. So this analysis appears to only be part of the story. What appears to be needed is a comparison of supply and the potential yield reductions versus consumption by all categories of “consumer” (including automobile gas tanks under the Congressional Mandate).

  73. Ian W says:
    July 27, 2012 at 6:41 am
    A. Scott says:
    July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    The July USDA Crop Report – the one that was issued after their downgrade of the current crop – showed:
    Even after the downgrade, which was before the recent rains in much of the corn belt, the estimated corn crop is projected to be 12,720 million bushels, almost exactly the same as 2011 and 2010′s 12,358 and 12,447 respectively.

    Absolutely true the amounts are almost the same. What is not the same is the number of mouths that want that food. The US and world population is increasing (the US mainly through immigration). So at the Thanksgiving table you now have an extra 4 seats but “almost exactly the same as 2011 and 2010″ amount of food. There are no US reserves as the holding of reserves pushed down prices. Paul Ehrlich’s bomb was defused by the continual increase in food output. Perhaps it will start ticking again.

    The numbers simply do not support that position.

    When we look at Total US Corn Production – the total 2011 harvest was 12,358 million bushels vs a total US population of 311.59 million people – that amounts to 39.66 bushels per person in the US.

    The total projected 2012 harvest, using the downgraded yields in July USDA report (which with recent rains and cooler temps will be overstated – yields will be higher than the downgraded numbers) will be 12,970 million bushels vs a total US population of 314.04 million people – that amounts to 41.30 bushels per person in the US.

    End of year reserves were in 2011 were 903 million bushels, or 2.89 bushels per person in the US, compared to projected 2012 reserves of 1,183 million bushels – or 3.77 bushels per person in the US.

    If we look at Total US Domestic Use – all uses of corn (food, alcohol, industrial, feed, seed and other uses) – 2011 was 11,005 million bushels vs 2012′s 11,120 million bushels – 35.4 bushels per person in 2012 vs 35.3 bushels per person in 2011.

    When compared against US production only (excluding imports) in 2011 we produced 1,153 million bushels in 2011 and 1,850 million bushels in 2012 more than our US domestic use needs.

    Even at the USDA’s drought reduced projected yields and acres harvested – we have more corn – in total and per capita – in 2012 than in 2011. And with recent rains and cooler weather in Upper Midwest corn belt those projections will be IMO low – the harvest should be considerably better.

    In essentially every measure of the 2012 US Corn crop – even if the USDA worst case numbers are correct – we are in better position than 2011.

    And even with the smaller projected crop our exports are projected to remain the same – 1,600 million bushels – in 2012 as 2011 … and we are still projected to make up the 225 million bushel drop in reserves from 2010 to 2011 and increase reserves from 2010 by another 55 million bushels.

    If you believe the USDA numbers – and they are the experts – there simply is no valid reason for all the fear mongering about the drought reduced harvest numbers – even adjusting for US population increase.

    These numbers are from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FeedGrains/

  74. Crispin in Waterloo says:
    July 27, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I note the doubling of exports to Mexico. This has had the effect of driving most farmers in N and NW Mexico out of business and has introduced GM genes into virtually every established local (historical) variety. In other words the gene bank and the farmers are being lost because of subsidised maize from the USA. I doubt this is a good thing.

    Damned if we do (supply more food and feed corn to Mexico) and vilified if we don’t …

    The US doubled its corn exports to Mexico from 2008 to 2011 but 2011′s 1,419 million bushels of US feed and white corn combined were still only 13.54% of Mexico’s total imports. Argentinian and Ukrainian and Brazilian corn is markedly lower price than US Corn -around $270 per metric tonne vs US corn at appx $310

    According to http://www.world-grain.com Mexico’s corn imports are expected to decrease for 2012 – forecast at 9.5 million tonnes, down from 11 million.

    The US does way more than its fair share – we produce 36% of the world corn but supply 41% of the total world corn exports … the next 3 producers – Argentinia, Ukraine and Brazil all combined roughly equal the US exports.

    Last – the US is projected to export virtually exactly the same – 40 million metric tonnes – as in 2011.

  75. Ian W says: @ July 27, 2012 at 6:41 am

    …Absolutely true the amounts are almost the same. What is not the same is the number of mouths that want that food….
    _________________________
    As I said before it is complicated. Not only as Ian said are their more mouths to feed, (in July 2012 ~ 7,057,075,000 people in the world compared to ~ 6,892,319,000 in July of 2010) their tastes have changed. What is missing is the increasing appetite of China and India as their population joins the ‘middle class’ link

  76. Pofarmer says:
    July 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm
    There are some folks here who are gonna be really, really surprised at the yield reports when the combines roll. The initial USDA forecast in Jan was ridiculously high, and they are still ridiculously high. One needs to look at the World Agricutural Supply and Demand reports to see where we are.

    Not sure where you see that from the WASDE Report?

    The WASDE latest (July 11) update incorporates the same exact USDA reductions as I’ve been quoting from the USDA reports … it showed following changes from their initial projections:
    http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/latest.pdf

    2012 planted acreage slightly increased, from 95.9 to 96.4 mill/acres vs 91.9 in 2011
    2012 harvested acreage slightly decreased, from 89.1 to 88.9 mill/acres vs 84 in 2011
    2012 Yield/acre was reduced, from 166 to 146 bu/acre vs 147.2 in 2011 (and 152.8 in 2010)
    2012 Production decreased, from 14,790 to 12,970 mill/bushels vs 12,358 in 2011
    2012 ethanol use decreased, from 5,450 to 4900 mill/bushels vs 5,000 in 2011 (and 2010)
    2012 Exports decreased, from 1,900 to 1600 mill/bushels SAME as the 1,600 in 2011
    2012 Reserves decreased from projection, from 1,881 to 1,183 mill/bushels – even this reserve however is significantly higher than both 2011′s 903 and 2010′s 1,128

    The initial projections for yields were higher than 2011 – however this projection was made in Jun 2012 and at that time the corn crop had hugely benefited from near perfect conditions. A very early start to planting, early warm weather and copious but not flooding rains etc. Doesn’t seem out of line at all considering.

    The July report did reflect the drought conditions … it reduced the projected 2012 harvested vs planted production by nearly 19% from original projections vs a more typical 8% drop.

    Since then rains and cooler temps – while they will not save all crops will at least limit the damage and in some cases significantly improve production.

    Reuters poll of analysts paints a bleaker than USDA picture but these are guys that benefit from commodities prices and especially from increased prices – so I take with grain of salt. USDA is collecting the crop data – these guys are interpreting it.

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/24/usa-drought-crops-idINL2E8IOB2B20120724

    Here is the detailed weekly crop progress report from NOAA/USDA – they spend considerable time on the drought conditions. Will be interesting to see what next weeks report says.

    http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/pubs/Weekly/Wwcb/wwcb.pdf

  77. As noted by other the above map of several States is incorrect, perhaps a mod can visit the link for the map and relink. If the original University map was wrong, it has been corrected on their site.

    You wouldn’t want misinformation archived, right?

  78. Pofarmer says: @ July 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm
    There are some folks here who are gonna be really, really surprised at the yield reports when the combines roll. The initial USDA forecast in Jan was ridiculously high, and they are still ridiculously high. One needs to look at the World Agricutural Supply and Demand reports to see where we are.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    A. Scott says: @ July 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    The July report did reflect the drought conditions … it reduced the projected 2012 harvested vs planted production by nearly 19% from original projections vs a more typical 8% drop.

    Since then rains and cooler temps – while they will not save all crops will at least limit the damage and in some cases significantly improve production….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Actually you are both right. It depends on who is planting what where. When NAFTA wiped out 75% of the Mexican peasant farmers Big Ag like Smithfield moved in. (Remember the swine flu scare was traced to a Mexican Smithfield farm?) (World wide Locations)

    Here in the USA crops do not tassel or ripen on the same day so a country-wide drought will not necessarily effect the corn in NC the same way it effects the corn in Nebraska. Heck a farmer can intentionally stagger planting or plant crop varieties with different ripening dates to spread out harvesting and hedge his bets. Purdue University has a nice readable article on the subject: Assessing Effects of Drought on Corn Grain Yield

    …Unfortunately, accurately predicting the effects of severe drought stress on corn grain yield is never easy or straightforward. The actual yield for any given field is determined cumulatively throughout the entire season; not at any specific point in time. Like any stress, the effects of drought on corn grain yield depend on the severity of the stress, the duration of the stress, and the timing of the stress with crop developmental stages….

    However as several of us have already pointed out this does not mean the MSM and commodity traders are not taking advantage by hyping a scare so trading is effected.

  79. Bill Illis says:
    July 27, 2012 at 6:12 am

    I’d like to know if my charts are not coming through properly. I post alot of them and it takes awhile to put them together. They look fine on the three computers I use.

    The original posts here were literally unreadable to me.
    Keep in mind 10% or slightly more of your audience is red-green colorblind and color combinations with poor gray tone separation are often indistinguishable to us.

    For example dark green on a black background, dark blue red or purple on a black background, pale pastel greens and yellows, pale blues, lavanders, violets etc, without using color picker tools to read the actual color triplet of the chart traces I cannot tell these apart.

    For me a pale cyan trace on an off white or pale yellow background is literally invisible, I won’t even know it is there unless there is some other clue to its existence. One way to provide that clue is to use different line styles or widths on colors in the same color family (ie blue, purple, or browns greens and reds. Or you can use only strongly contrasting color saturation differences, a bright intense blue vs a pale lavender I can tell them apart. If both have approximately the same grey tone, no chance without manually picking colors and figuring them out, and even then it is very tedious. My solution is often to ignore illustrations that are that much work to make sense of unless I have a great deal of interest in their content.

    Change your charts to grey tone and if the grays do not have greater than 10% difference it is probably a bad choice of colors.

    Larry

  80. And Gail …. this year the staggered harvest is even more pronounced due to the nearly ideal early conditions of a dry and warm spring which allowed planting to be weeks early ….

  81. Bill Illis says: July 27, 2012 at 6:12 am

    I’d like to know if my charts are not coming through properly.

    Wow that is frigging bazaar — it is browser specific!

    In fire fox that png comes up with an 87% gray background making the black text unreadable.
    In internet exploder, it shows with a white background.
    What software are you using to prepare the png image???

    It is outputting a png that is not user friendly to firefox, and giving bogus background color information some how.

    I have never had a problem with my images on image shack having such violent color shifts, so I suspect it is something about the png conversion. Might try saving it as a gif , then hosting it on image shack and see if the same thing happens.

    Moderators if Bill wants to communicate with me free to forward my email info to him, as I would like to know the source of this issue too!

    Larry

    [Understood. Robt]

  82. Here is the 2011 US Corn Production Map:

    http://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Crops_County/cr-pr.asp

    Here is the Drought Severity Map:

    http://www.weather.com/maps/activity/garden/usdroughtseverity_large.html

    Here are two maps for last week precip estimate:

    http://www.weather.com/maps/activity/garden/weeklyrainfallestimate_large.html

    http://www.intellicast.com/National/Precipitation/Weekly.aspx

    The USDA Crop Report did show significant downgrades – acres projected to be harvested and yields. Some outside “analysts” are predicting the sky is falling. The USDA was more measured. Some farmers in online forums etc are pretty bleak – but then you don’t usually hear from those doing well.

    Appears there was decent precip over much of the growing range over the last week – and at a fairly critical stage as I understand it. Will be interesting to see the USDA Crop Report this week.

  83. A. Scott says:
    July 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    And Gail …. this year the staggered harvest is even more pronounced due to the nearly ideal early conditions of a dry and warm spring which allowed planting to be weeks early ….
    _____________________________
    The growing conditions here in NC were certainly terrific this spring. It was 60F to the 80sF from March til June 20th and decent rain with decent sunshine. You might not plant in March, but the extra warmth of the ground is going to effect the speed of the seed germination when you do plant in April. The fact that the ground did not go to solid brick (red clay) until mid June makes a difference too. A quick look at Kansas City, MO shows it was about the same as middle NC. Good growing conditions til late June.

    The amount of residual soil moisture when a drought hits will make a big difference as that Purdue article pointed out. Even with the strike of high temps and no rain my grass is still green as Ireland and growing like weeds. If I get a thunderstorm once a week my grass will stand up to no rain for 14 days even if it is 90-100F. It is when it goes over 14 days that it gets a bit dicey.

    Corn is a C4 plant and well adapted to high daytime temperatures and intense sunlight. Mexico where maise comes from is not exactly a benign climate.

  84. That is my understanding as well – heat and sunlight are good … but water – or at least soil moisture – is also important.

    In the upper Midwest as I understand it planting was as much as 3 to 5 weeks early this year due to early frost out, warm temps, and early lack of rain meaning fields were immediately accessible. Lack of spring flooding was also a big factor.

    Soon after planting many areas saw monsoon rains which gave a big shot of soil moisture.

  85. “@SocialBlunder

    “Crispin – please address your concerns about quantificaton and validity of nighttime heat to the author of the blog entry.”

    Noted and thanks. Yes they need to put numbers on the claims for big changes in night time temps. Hubris as far as I can see.”

    Working from the NCDC Global Summary of Day, I’ve calculated a Daily rising temp, the following nights drop in temp, and the difference between the two. Here is an introduction, and updated annual averages.

    http://www.science20.com/virtual_worlds/blog/global_annual_daily_temperatures_19292010-81063

    http://www.science20.com/virtual_worlds/blog/updated_temperature_charts-86742

    There is no trend of a loss of nightly cooling at the surface.
    I also took just the northern hemisphere (North of 23 Lat), and calculated a daily average, showing the daily difference as the seasons progress for 1950-2010, again there is no trend.

  86. A. Scott. I’ll try to be gentle. The July USDA numbers, when they were released, were already 3 weeks out of date. This is O.K. in a normal year, in a drought year it compounds their errors. Radar precipitation maps also generally GREATLY overstate the actual precip that hits the ground, especially in a drought. The extremely early planting dates and dry spring actually mean that corn planting was less staggered, not more, and it really doesn’t matter because in the scheme of things everything planted any time has gotten nailed. Also, look where this drought is centered. Some of the largest corn growing areas of the country, IL and IN. It has now progressed into IA and parts of MN, gotten most of NE, etc. The Jan projections by the USDA required EVERY state to exceed it’s old record production. Given the increase in acres in marginal growing areas, that was NEVER going to happen. At this point all they can do is reduce the numbers slowly so they don’t look like total idiots. Also, the WASDE reports are not about U.S. numbers. Look at world carryouts on oilseeds, corn, wheat, and coarse grains. They are headed the wrong way, and are now more strongly headed the wrong way. We are currently painted into a corner on grain production worldwide. The world wants more oilseeds, but we need more feed grains. This is going to leave a mark.

  87. The costs in this post don’t include the higher prices for corn. If the crop comes in at 11 billion bushels at at a cost of an extra $2-3 per bushel, the cost to consumers is $22-33B.

  88. @Tom:

    Luckily we don’t live in the rest of the world…

    Euro units are not particularly convenient nor have they done all that much to make teaching science easier. “Pounds per square inch” is much clearer than kPascals…

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/degrees-of-degrees/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/unifying-the-cubits-the-yard-and-the-rod/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/making-an-english-foot/

    On the corn issue: If we just skipped mandating that corn be fed to cars for this year all of the “problem” goes away. It is the “Green Mandate” that is making food costs higher.

  89. For all of those trashing Goldman Sachs & the rest of the speculators, you’re probably right to do so.

    But do so with an eye to the whole picture, not just one snapshot.

    For decades, agricultural subsidies have artificially kept prices low, devastating farmers in poorer countries and nations that refused to join the U.S. and Europe in their gluttonous overspending. Not only did this produce acres of wasted food in those countries — whole warehouses of butter rotted in some European countries, IIRC — but the rest of the world had their agricultural industries depleted. Many countries are now in a farmer crisis, where most farmers will retire in the next decade or two, with few coming up the ranks to take their place. That’s because so many people quit farming in previous decades due to depressed food prices.

    Higher food prices are a bad thing, but only if they’re really high. Moderately high food prices drive investment in agriculture. Just like with natural gas and oil, the cure for high prices is high prices. The long term effect is to generate more food production, and — critically — higher capacity for food production.

    In the grand scheme of things, the speculators are just correcting the short-term, kick-the-can-down-the-road politics of food that has distorted the food production system (and much else) since World War II.

  90. “Family members farming in southern IL are reporting ZERO bushels/acre unless significant and immediate rain relief occurs. Soy is also on the ropes.”

    Southern Illinoisan here. It’s been well over 100 degrees every day this summer, very little rain, the rain is starting back up but for a lot of people it’s too late. I’m in a part of Southern Illinois that’s listed as “moderate” and the fields here are largely toast. Maybe we should look to farmers instead of armchair climatologists.

  91. Wow. We have one person posting about Southern Illinois, which is listed as “moderate”, saying the fields are in trouble. As a fellow Southern Illinoisan, I can confirm this. It stayed somewhat green here, but many of the fields are bare, and the temperatures around 110 degrees every damn day didn’t help either. We’re not the worst of it. I’ve heard from too many people who’re talking about how much trouble they’ll have with insurance, and people with livestock who are talking about what a terrible price they’ll get on their cattle because everyone will be selling, because they have no way of feeding the livestock this winter. People who own horses for recreation are talking about selling them off for meat, because there’s no hay.

    Then there’s someone claiming that the media reports are 99% a scam to drive up the prices. I hope so, for everyone’s sake. I hope we’re the worst of it, and everyone else is doing fine. Unfortunately, I hear too much talk “through the grapevine” by knowing farmers to think that. Maybe 50%, tops.

    Personally, this is a subject where I’ll trust my own eyes, the word of farmers, and my common sense over the word of armchair climatologists and financial experts.

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