Fundamentally Speaking
Joel Karlin DTN Contributing Analyst

Thursday 10/18/12

Northern Expansion of Corn Belt?

We recently read an interesting article that referenced the fact that the USDA in January of this year had updated its plant hardiness map for the first time since 1990.

According to the USDA, compared to the 1990 version, zone boundaries in this edition of the map have shifted in many areas.

The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States.

This is mostly a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period; the new map uses data measured at weather stations during the 30-year period 1976-2005.

In contrast, the 1990 map was based on temperature data from only a 13-year period of 1974-1986.

Though this map is generally used by gardeners and researchers, it does shed some light on the increasing trend of how planted corn acreage in the U.S. has gradually moved to latitudes that are more northern.

This may be the result of changing crop economics but there is also a school of thought that weather patterns may be encouraging a northward expansion of the Corn Belt.

Over the past three years, the northern states have fared better in terms of yield with this region of the country having greater summer rainfall and less intense heat.

The accompanying graphic shows the compounded annual percent change in corn planted acreage for two 11-year time periods; 1991-2001 and 2002-2012 for the top 18 corn states.

This chart also has the average of each states corn plantings as a percent of total U.S. planted acreage also for each of those two 11 year time periods.

Looking at the annual growth rate of corn acreage, in the 190’s KS corn acreage grew at an annual rate of 6.1% and MO at a 1.5% rate with corn acreage falling by an average of 3.6% each year in NC.

Over the past 11 years, it has been ND that has seen the highest compounded annual increase in corn acreage, up an average of 10.2% each year from 2002 to 2012.

Strong acreage increases since 2002 have also been seen in SD, TN, and KS albeit at a slower rate than seen from 1991 to 2001.

The large annual increase in the amount of corn planted in ND has resulted in that state accounting for an average of 2.6% of total U.S. corn acreage from 2002 to 2012, more than double the level seen from 1991-2001, a period when ND only averaged about 1.1% of total U.S. corn plantings.

Other states seeing their corn acreage account for a larger proportion of total U.S. planted area include KS and SD.

States whose corn acreage as a percent of the U.S. total is now lower over the past 11 years as opposed to the 1991-2001 period include IA from 16.0% to 15.5%, NE from 10.9% to 10.4%, IN from 7.5% to 6.8%, and OH from 4.6% to 4.0%.


Posted at 8:41AM CDT 10/18/12
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