CropProphet Corn Yield Forecast Performance

Springtime approaches and the markets are preparing for another crop season in the United States.   By June corn fields will begin to green up across the U.S. Midwest, and the CropProphet corn production and yield forecasts will provide valuable early indications of potential outcomes for the 2019 crop. The performance of the last few years suggest market analysts and participants would do well to keep track of the CropProphet forecasts in the months ahead.

During 2018, the market was quite focused on the price risk of corn yield coming in greater than 180 bpa.  While the USDA was forecasting values as high as 181.3 bpa as late as September 2018, CropProphet was within a small percentage of the final yield by mid July.

Looking back at CropProphet’s performance in 2017, there is no question that the CropProphet forecasts were well ahead of both the market consensus and leading competitors.  CropProphet’s expected (most-likely) value for the final U.S. corn yield rose rapidly in July and reached 173.6 bushels per acre (bpa) by the end of the month.  Prospects continued to improve in the subsequent weeks, and by the end of September CropProphet was expecting U.S. yield of 176.0 bpa.  The chart below shows the daily-updating forecasts (green dots and confidence intervals) that CropProphet customers had access to throughout the season.



In contrast to CropProphet during 2017, leading competitors were expecting yields below 170 bpa until well into August or beyond.  Here’s a comparison of U.S. yield forecast numbers as of August 10, when the USDA issued their first survey-based estimate:

The high CropProphet number (reaching 176 bpa by September 30) was vindicated by USDA’s November report that boosted the yield to 175.4 bpa, and subsequent revisions by USDA took the final number to 176.6 bpa.

It’s worth noting too that the 2017 Pro Farmer crop tour came out with US yield of 167.1 bpa on August 24; this number proved to be much too low, showing that ground-level survey results don’t provide a silver bullet for crop forecasting.

2015 and 2016 were just as good

An important point to recognize is that CropProphet’s excellent 2017 performance was not a one-off success.

The chart below shows the results from 2016: CropProphet ended the season at 175.7 bpa, compared to a November USDA estimate of 175.3 bpa.  Market consensus estimates were again far lower in the critical mid-late summer period.

The 2015 season turned out to be very uneventful, but CropProphet was spot on: our final U.S. yield forecast was 169.3 bpa, and the USDA’s November estimate was also 169.3 bpa.  Of course we don’t expect accuracy quite that good every year – but we hope you’ll agree this is impressive.

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