Friday, August 10, 2012

US Corn Yields

USDA today announced its forecast for corn yields. It might be fun to compare those forecast to one using a statistical model of corn yields that my colleague Michael Roberts and I have developed. It uses only four temperature variables (two temperature and two precipitation variables - if you want to read more, here's a link to the paper). The temperature variables in 2012 are shown here.

All weather variables in the model are season totals for March 1st - August 31st. The following graph combines actual weather observations for March 1st-August 6, 2012 with historic averages for August 7th-August 31st in each county.  Once the actual weather for the rest of August is realized, the predictions will obviously change dependent on whether it warmer or cooler than usual.
The eastern counties in the graph account for 85% of the corn that is grown in the US.   While some areas areas are indeed hit very hard (-80 log points is a 55% decline in yields), some areas in the south and northern edge should actually have above normal yields. Overall production in this area is predicted to decline 14% compared to the trend, which is much less severe than what USDA is saying.

2012 Weather Anomalies in Eastern US

Following up on an early post about the record setting heat in the United States, below are a few more plots to show the spatial distribution of the heat wave. The weather data has been updated to August 6, 2012. Here is the overall US average (red line is 2012, the grey lines are 1960-2011) for degree days above 29C, the weather variable that best predicts corn yields.
There is considerable spatial heterogeneity in how hot it has been. The next graph shows anomalies (difference to the 1950-2011 historic average) for degree days above 29C for counties in the Eastern United State. The data uses March 1st - August 6th, 2012. For comparison, the historic US average for the entire season (March 1st-August 31) is 34 degree days, so an extra 135 is four times the historic average - and that is on top of the historic average in a given location!
There is even more heterogeneity for rainfall. While places along the Mississippi River seem dry, some Northern and Southern counties actually had above normal rainfall.