Slice down through the middle of a watermelon, and if there is nothing there, you will know you are in the heart of the Corn Belt and it is 2012.

The states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas are the like heart of the watermelon when it comes to corn and soybean production.

And if there is a shortfall in the crop there, it is comparable to having an empty watermelon. So 2012 was no picnic.

Whether you lose the heart of your watermelon or the heart of your line-up on your ball team, your overall production will suffer, and that is what has happened to U.S. corn production as all of the major corn growing states suffered a reduction from their expected trend yield.

That is the analysis of University of Illinois farm management specialist Gary Schnitkey who compared recent yields from the Crop Reporting districts in those states with their trend line yields.

Impact on corn

Schnitkey says, “Overall, yields are most below trend yields in eastern Kansas, northern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwest Indiana.” In those crop reporting districts corn yields were 50% or less of the expected yield for this year. However, adjacent to those regions, yields were still 30% to 50% below normal.

But his analysis indicates that all five states were hurt in corn production, and nowhere were yields more than 90% of trend line yields. The areas where there was the least suffering drought-wise were the northern tier of counties and central counties in Iowa, southwestern Kansas, and south central Missouri.

In those Crop Reporting Districts corn yields were at least 80% of normal, but that is the closest that any district came to an expected yield.

Impact on soybeans

When it comes to soybeans, the expected crop yield shows more divergence below the trend line in crop reporting districts that are further west of where the poorer corn yields were found. In fact Kansas was the only state Schnitkey found that had soybeans yields more than 50% below trend line.

While there were regions in Illinois and Missouri with soybean yields that approached a 50% loss, many of the crop reporting districts had much better soybean yields in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. In fact, the northern tier of Illinois counties and those around the Missouri Bootheel were within 90% of the trend line yields for 2012.

In his summation, Schnitkey says, “In terms of lower yields, the epicenter of the drought appears to have been in Missouri. Yields generally increase the further from this area. In general, corn yields were lower as a percent of trend than soybean yields.”


The 2012 drought thoroughly choked the Cornbelt, and particularly states that were needed to produce a good crop. For the corn yield, the greatest damage extends from eastern Kansas to southwestern Indiana.

For the soybean yield, the worst damage was limited to eastern Kansas. The early reports of yield from Crop Reporting Districts indicate the impact of the drought was the most widespread during the corn pollinating season in early July, but with the later reproductive calendar for soybeans, the area of the worst drought had moved further to the west and had tightened in its scope.

Late summer rains in Indiana were particularly important to the soybeans in that state, as they were across northern Illinois and southern Missouri.