Like a lot of Wisconsin farmers, Rosendale grain farmer Jim Zimmerman says combining corn last fall "was a lot of fun." He watched the yield monitor in his combine jump between 200 and 250 bushels per acre as he rolled across the fields. Zimmerman, a director on the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, and his family grow 2,700 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Fond du Lac County.
An early spring, ideal weather during the growing season and a late first killing frost helped Wisconsin farmers harvest a bumper crop of corn and soybeans in 2016. In fact, according to the Nov. 10 USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service crop production report, the state is forecast to average 180 bushels of corn per acre, which would be the highest corn yield on record for Wisconsin. The 2016 crop likely will smash the previous record corn yield of 165 bushels per acre set in 2015. The average yield in 2014 was 156 bushels.
According to Greg Bussler, state statistician for the USDA NASS Wisconsin field office, the final production estimates for the 2016 growing season will be published in the Crop Production 2016 Summary Report to be released Jan. 12.
"In 2016, Wisconsin farmers produced a total of 558 million bushels of corn, which is a record-size crop," Bussler says. The 2016 crop beats the old record set in 2011 of 515 million bushels.
Soybeans also fared well in the Dairy State this year. Soybean production is forecast at 107 million bushels in 2016, compared to 93 million bushels in 2015, according to the USDA NASS crop production report. If realized, this will be the highest soybean production on record. The Nov. 10 forecast yield for soybeans is a record 55 bushels per acre, 5.5 bushels above 2015's yield. The previous record soybean yield of 50.5 bushels per acre was set in 2010.
U.S. record yields
"The U.S. set a record in soybean yield in 2016, too," Bussler says. "The national soybean average yield is 52.5 bushels, which is a record."
Bussler says soybean production for the U.S. is forecast at a record 4.36 billion bushels. Based on the Nov. 10 report, yields are expected to average a record 52.5 bushels per acre, up 4.5 bushels from 2015. Area for harvest of soybeans in the U.S. is forecast at a record 83 million acres. Twelve states, including Wisconsin, had record soybean yields in 2016. The other states are: North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
And the records for the 2016 harvest keep coming. Not only did U.S. farmers set records with the soybean harvest, but they also broke records with the corn harvest. Corn production for the nation is forecast at 15.2 billion bushels, up 12% from 2015. Based on conditions as of Nov. 10, yields are expected to average 175.3 bushels per acre, up 6.9 bushels from 2015.
"If realized, this will be the highest corn yield and production on record for the United States," Bussler says. "The area harvested for corn is forecast at 86.8 million acres, up 8% from 2015."
Bussler notes there were record corn yields in nine states, including Wisconsin. The other states are: Washington, Idaho, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Wisconsin's corn and soybean yields compare well with Iowa's. Iowa’s corn yield is expected to average 199 bushels per acre, 7 bushels per acre higher than the previous year. Iowa's soybeans are forecast to average a record 59 bushels per acre, 2.5 bushels more than the previous record set in 2015.
Bussler credits ideal weather for the bin-busting yields in Wisconsin. "Farmers got the crops in early," he says. "We didn't have a killing frost until much later than normal. There was plenty of rain, and we didn't have any temperature extremes, either.
"I think the key to the record corn and soybean yields was the timely rains and no extremely hot weather. A warm September and October helped," he says.