The U.S. Corn Yield Debate: Weather vs. Technology

In recent years, there has been much debate surrounding the slowing increase of corn yields in the United States. A study conducted by the University of Illinois suggests that unfavorable growing seasons may be the primary reason for this trend, rather than a technology slump. While some have argued that a shift in technology is responsible for the flattening of the corn yield curve since 2013, researchers using a crop weather model found no evidence of a trend change. Instead, they concluded that weather is the dominant factor influencing corn yields on an annual basis.

Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, explains that the crop weather model takes into account various factors such as technological advancements, planting time, precipitation, and temperature to isolate the impact of weather on yield fluctuations. Irwin notes that similar debates have occurred in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1990s, following periods of exceptional yields that were often attributed to advancements in technology without considering the role of favorable weather conditions.

Currently, Irwin’s projections estimate a U.S. average corn yield of 182.1 bushels per acre. However, adjustments may be necessary based on late planting data available after May 20. The crop weather model will continue to update the yield projection throughout the season based on changing weather information. Interested individuals can find more information from Scott Irwin on the farmdoc Daily website under the article titled “Is the Trend Rate of Growth in the U.S. Average Corn Yield Slowing?”

By Sophia Gonzalez

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