Recent hiatus in annual corn yield records seen ending

by Josh Sosland
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In the five years beginning in 2000, U.S. corn yields reached record highs four times beginning with yields of 136.9 bus per acre in 2000, culminating with the 160.3 bus in 2004 and creating expectations of new peaks year after year. But in the nine years that followed, a new record was reached only once — 164.7 in 2009.

The interruption of corn yield gains over the past several years, often due to erratic weather patterns, contributed to grain price volatility during this period and accounted for a sense of apprehension as industry executives gathered in Kansas City last week for the annual Purchasing Seminar sponsored by Milling & Baking News. While encouraged by a pronounced downtrend in ingredient prices in the days leading to the seminar, the annual event on numerous occasions in the past has coincided with either a turn toward harsher conditions in key growing areas or forecasts that problems loomed.

To the relief of the 800 in attendance at this year’s event, forecasts were consistently favorable both for the weather and the market environment. Severe June weather, a major event in 2012, was thought highly unlikely this year. And while several presenters warned of the omnipresent potential for disruptive “black swans,” purchasing executives heard hopes for a new record in corn yields and a more benign new crop environment overall than has been the norm in recent years.

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