Spring officially begins March 20, but soybean farmers and marketers are already wondering what might happen this fall at harvest.
After all, 2014 brought a record yield of 47.8 bua, and 2015 is expected to result in even more land planted with soybeans than last year’s record-high 83.1 million harvested acres. The USDA projects a yield of 46 bua. Should farmers plan for another bumper crop of beans?
“Yes, we’re going to have a high acreage issue for soybeans—record in fact—but we’re going to return to normal yields and so therefore we have production 111 [million bushels] under last year,” said Rich Nelson chief strategist for Allendale, which recently completed a survey of farmers’ planting intentions.
The McHenry, Ill.-based firm estimates farmers will plant 86 million acres of soybeans, with a yield of 45.36 bua, based on the results of its survey.
Listen to Nelson's comments on U.S. Farm Report here:
The agricultural economists at the University of Illinois stay even closer to historical trends.
After examining soybean yields from 1960 to 2014, they arrived at a projection of 44.6 bua, which is 1.4 bushels below the USDA forecast of 46 bua.
Why is the USDA number so much higher? The U of Illinois team says it could be the sample size.
“The higher trend projection by the USDA is likely due to a sample that starts in the drought year of 1988 and a ‘certainty-equivalent’ approach that assumes with certainty average weather and planting progress will occur in 2015,” said Scott Irwin and Darrel Good in their farmdoc Daily analysis.
Of course, for better or worse, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. “Regardless of which trend projection is considered, there is, as usual, large risk of deviations from the projection,” the economists noted. “For example, we estimate there is roughly a 1-in-10 chance of the U.S. average soybean yield falling below 41 bushels and a 1-in-10 chance of yield rising above 47 bushels. As indicated in the analysis for corn yields, it really is no wonder that weather forecasters are in such high demand.”