Soybean yields have been strong in recent years. Corn yields have also been improving. This article will offer thoughts on soybean yields in 2018. Moreover, it will explore if the increase in soybean yields is faster than the growth of corn yields.
U.S. Soybean Yields
The figure shows reported U.S. soybean yields from 1960 to 2017. Agricultural Economic Insights writes,
Over the last 58 years, the national average soybean yields have, on average, increased at an annual rate of 0.43 bushels per acre. While this might seem like a small rate of change, keep in mind this can quickly add up over a decade (4.3 bushels over ten years), or one’s career.
Similar to corn, soybeans have seen very strong yields in the past few years. The last three years have been the strongest 3-year average period for soybean yields, relative to trend, since the 1960s. This is evidenced by the gap between the trend line and reported yields. The U.S trend yield for 2018 is 46.5 bushels.
In May’s WASDE report the USDA estimates that U.S. Soybean yields will average 48.5 bushels per acre, a drop from the prior two years of 49 bu/ac last year and 52 bu/ac in 2016.
Outlook for 2018
Corn yields have been above trend, but have not been record setting. Unlike corn, recent soybean yields have seen some of the largest departures from trend. Soybean yields saw their best year in 2016 when they were 6.3 bushels above trend. Four of the six largest departures from trend occurred from 2014 to 2017. The record set in 2016 was 24% larger than the previous record.
While the trend yield for 2018 is 46.5 bushels, half of the historical departures from trend have been 0.5 bushels above trend or higher.
Yields have been above trend about 59% of the time. Below trends are unlikely as well. In the past, yields have been 2.5 bushels below trend or lower only 17% of the time. Therefore, it is fairly likely we will see yields equal to or above trend.
It is important to keep a long-run perspective in mind when considering yield potentials in 2018, both at the national level and even farm level.
In May’s WASDE report the USDA estimates that U.S. Corn yields will average 174 bushels per acre.
University of Illinois explored the differences in corn and soybean yields.
Soybean yields across much of the Corn Belt have been exceptionally high in recent years, leading to the question of whether soybean yields are increasing relative to corn yields.
In their study, University of Illinois examined the question using state-level corn and soybean yield series for Corn Belt states. When looking at 1972 to 2017 corn and soybean averages, the recent high soybean yields have not resulted in high soybean-to-corn yield ratios.
They also found variation between geographical parts of the corn belt. The eastern Corn Belt has seen mostly stable soybean-to-corn yields. Oppositely, much of the western Corn Belt has seen declining soybean yields relative to corn yields. This is relatively consistent with the 1972 to 2017 averages.
In recent years, soybean yields have been high and have even reached record numbers. This trend is expected to continue. With recent high soybean performance, we question how that compares to corn. Though lately there has been high soybean performance, studies show no indication of change in soybean-to-corn yields in recent years.
Thumbnail Chart Courtesy ageconomists.com
Image courtesy of agfax