Key shifts in U.S. corn production are decelerating yield growth, according to a new report released by researchers at the Rabobank International Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group. The report, titled "Can Corn Keep Up?" finds that yields are likely to grow at a much slower rate than historical and trendline analysis would suggest and anticipate 2012 growth will be below current USDA estimates.
The Rabobank International Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group's "Can Corn Keep Up?" report notes that increased corn acres on less productive land, and reduced crop rotation make it unlikely that U.S. corn yield will increase significantly enough to move world grain stocks out of historically low levels.
Farm Futures market analyst Arlan Suderman says there are many different ways that you can calculate trend yields depending on how far back you look. USDA has taken a shorter-term calculation, which will show a sharper rise and that has led to their fairly aggressive estimate of 164 bushels per acre.
"From a pure statistical analysis standpoint that would seem to make sense," Suderman said. "But if you look at what expanding acres involves that is where Rabobank makes some excellent points."
The report also notes only a 50% probability that U.S. corn production will keep up with worldwide demand.
"We've known for some time that corn yield increases will not be able to keep up with the surging global consumption," notes Sterling Liddell, Global Strategist with the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory team. "In the next three to five years, there is very little room for error as ethanol, exporters and livestock feeders all compete for the available supply."
The report delves into factors such as the recent and dramatic expansion of planted geographies, decreases in crop rotation, increased density of plant populations and the slowing growth of technological advancements that had been fueling the growth in yields year over year.
"To this point, technology has played an important role in advancing the yield curve," says Liddell. "However, at this point, we don't see game-changing technology on the immediate horizon that would enable producers to make faster strides toward replenishing world grain stocks."
Suderman says while there are differing points of view about new advancements in technology, generally speaking it is probably true that we're not making the major advancement to really push yields near term.