There’s been much talk of the severe droughts currently plaguing the West and High Plains, but drought has quietly but steadily crept into the Midwest. According to the last report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 45.89% of the Midwest is currently categorized as having some level of drought. That’s the highest level it has been this time of year in more than a decade.
This is cause for some concern – after all, a strong start to the season is critical for high yields, and drought can majorly hamper any planting season. That prompted some digging into a decade’s worth of April drought maps and final corn yield estimates to determine if there was a strong correlation between the two.
The findings? A dry start to the season doesn’t necessarily doom it. And the opposite is also true – a season that starts out with low incidence of drought may not end up with bin-busting yields.
Look at 2014 and 2005 as prime examples. In 2014, a moderate amount of the Midwest (40.57%) was suffering under some level of drought. That didn’t stop the crop from rolling to a record 170.99 bu. per acre. And in 2005, the Midwest started pristinely, with 93.89% of the region declared free of drought. Come harvest time, yields clocked in as the third lowest of the past 10 years.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the U.S. drought footprint from early April each of the past 10 years, along with final yields.
2014 (170.99 bu.)
2013 (158.13 bu.)
2012 (123.10 bu.)
2011 (146.80 bu.)
2010 (152.60 bu.)
2009 (164.40 bu.)
2008 (153.30 bu.)
2007 (150.70 bu.)
2006 (149.10 bu.)
2005 (147.90 bu.)