Does the exceptionally high soybean yields in recent years mean soybean yields are increasing relative to corn yields? Gary Schnitkey, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, recently examined this question. Using state yield data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service for 1972 to 2017, Schnitkey examined corn and soybean yield trends across the Corn Belt to see if soybean yield increases are outpacing those in corn. For Nebraska, Schnitkey found the state average corn yield increased an average of 2.0 bushels per year between 1972 and 2017. At the same time, the average soybean yield increased by .65 bushels per year. The soybean yield-to corn yield ratio averaged .30 over the period and did not exhibit any trends. (see Figure 9 below). The soybean-to-corn yield ratio was .34 in 2016 and .32 in 2017.
Schnitkey found that the ratio of soybean yields to corn yields have been stable in the eastern Corn Belt (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin), while states in the western corn Belt, (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota), except Nebraska, have experienced declining soybean yields relative to corn yields.
Why has the soybean-to-corn yield ratio remained stable in Nebraska while other western Corn Belt states have seen a decline in soybean productivity compared to corn? It could be the introduction of drought-resistant seed varieties for corn has helped boost corn productivity in other states relative to soybeans. The resultant yield increase would be more prone show up in other states which are predominantly dryland. Nebraska, because of its large base of irrigated acres, is more likely to see corn and soybean productivity rise in tandem. Schnitkey, G. “Have Soybean Yields Increased Relative to Corn Yields in Recent Years?” farmdoc daily (8):78, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 1, 2018.
Jay Rempe is the senior economist for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe’s background in agricultural economics, years of experience in advocating at the state capitol, and a firm grasp of issues allow him to quantify the fiscal impact of a regulatory proposal, and provide an in-depth examination of key issues affecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.