Corn Harvest Quality Report 2013/2014


The U.S. Grains Council Corn Harvest Quality Report 2013/14 has been designed to help international buyers of U.S. corn understand the initial quality of U.S. yellow commodity corn as it enters the merchandising channel. This is the third annual survey of the quality of the U.S. corn crop at harvest. With three years of results, the Council is beginning to observe patterns in the impact of weather and growing conditions on the quality of the U.S. corn as it comes out of the field.

Both the 2011 and 2013 crop years started with cooler and wetter planting seasons. However, the 2013 season experienced a greater delay with planting, a cooler summer, and a wetter and later harvest than the 2011 season. The 2012 crop year was defined by its early planting season and a severe drought prompting early plant maturity and harvest. These differences in the growing season conditions were exhibited in the quality of the corn crop as it reached the first stage in the merchandising channel. The 2013 corn crop mimicked the chemical composition of the 2011 corn crop with comparable protein and starch levels, characteristics significantly impacted by growing season weather. However, the 2013 harvest season produced corn with higher moisture than the previous two crop years. The 2013 corn crop also contrasts to the previous crops with lower test weight and true density, softer endosperm and slightly higher stress cracks. These observations show quality differences among the three years. Nonetheless, the absolute values indicate 2013 corn will still be of high quality that should store and handle well as it moves through the marketing channel.

The Council notes that three years of data begin to lay the foundation for evaluating the trends and the factors that impact corn quality. As the Council continues to accumulate harvest quality data over additional years, the cumulative Harvest Report surveys will gain increasing value by enabling export buyers to make year-to-year comparisons and assess patterns of corn quality based on growing conditions across the years.

This Harvest Report 2013/14 is based on 610 yellow commodity corn samples taken from defined areas within 12 of the top corn producing and exporting states. Inbound samples were collected from local grain elevators to observe quality at the point of origin and to provide representative information about the variability of the quality characteristics across the diverse geographic regions.

The sampling areas in the 12 states are divided into three general groupings that are labeled Export Catchment Areas (ECAs). These three ECAs are identified by the three major pathways to export markets:

  1. The Gulf ECA consists of areas that typically export corn through U.S. Gulf ports;
  2. The Pacific Northwest (PNW) ECA includes areas exporting corn through Pacific Northwest and California ports; and
  3. The Southern Rail ECA comprises areas generally exporting corn to Mexico.

Sample test results are reported at the U.S. Aggregate level and for each of the three ECAs, providing a general perspective on the geographic variability of U.S. corn quality.

The quality characteristics of the corn identified at harvest establish the foundation for the quality of the grain ultimately arriving at the export customers’ doors. However, as corn passes through the U.S. marketing system, it is mingled with corn from other locations; aggregated into trucks, barges and rail cars; stored; and loaded and unloaded several times. Therefore, the quality and condition of the corn change from the point of first sale to the export elevator. For this reason, the Harvest Report 2013/14 should be considered carefully in tandem with the U.S. Grains Council Corn Export Cargo Quality Report 2013/14 that will follow early in 2014. As always, the quality of an export cargo of corn is established by the contract between buyer and seller, and buyers are free to negotiate any quality factor that is of importance to them.

This report provides detailed information on each of the quality factors tested, including average and standard deviation for the aggregate of all samples, and for each of the three ECAs. The “Quality Test Results” section summarizes the following quality factors:

  • Grade Factors: test weight, broken corn and foreign material (BCFM), total damage, and heat damage
  • Moisture
  • Chemical Composition: protein, starch, and oil
  • Physical Factors: stress cracks/index, 100-kernel weight, kernel volume, kernel true density, whole kernels, and horneous (hard) endosperm
  • Mycotoxins: aflatoxin and DON

In addition, this Harvest Report includes brief descriptions of the U.S. crop and weather conditions; U.S. corn production, usage and outlook; and detailed descriptions of survey and statistical analysis methods, and testing methods.