The overall quality of the United States’ 2014 corn crop was good, with 88 percent of samples rating at grade No. 2 or better, according to the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) 2014/2015 Corn Harvest Quality Report.

“This year’s report shows for the second year in a row that the United States has an abundant supply of high-quality corn available to export,” said Kurt Shultz, USGC director of global strategies. “The average values from the report indicate that the United States will have a crop that will store and handle well as it moves through the market channels to export.”

According to the report, the 2014 corn crop is entering the marketing channels with the following key characteristics:

  • average test weight well above the limit for No. 1 grade corn, indicating overall good quality.
  • low levels of broken corn and foreign material, with 96.2 percent below the limit for No. 1 grade corn.
  • 100 percent of sampled corn testing below the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aflatoxin action level of 20 parts per billion.
  • slightly lower moisture content than in 2013, as was the incidence of stress cracks. However, total damage levels were significantly higher, likely due to weather conditions, though 94 percent of samples were still below the limit for No. 2 corn.
  • protein concentration lower than in 2013, likely due to higher yields in 2014.
  • comparable starch concentration to 2013, indicating relatively good kernel filling and maturation. 

This report is based on 629 yellow commodity corn samples taken from defined areas within 12 of the top corn-producing and exporting states, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 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 quality characteristics across the geographic regions.

The corn samples were tested at the Illinois Crop Improvement Association’s Identity Preserved Grain Laboratory (IPG Lab) in Champaign, Illinois, in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service’s (FGIS) Grain Inspection Handbook. This follows the methodology that was developed for USGC’s 2011/2012 Corn Harvest Quality Report.

Total U.S. corn production for 2014 is estimated at 14.4 billion bushels (365 million metric tons), an all-time record, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

The weather, like usual, had a significant impact on the crop’s development and ultimately on many of the corn quality factors measured including moisture content, total damage and stress cracks. During the planting season, the U.S. Corn Belt experienced a cool, wet spring that delayed planting. The summer months offered excellent pollination conditions, which set the stage for high yields, while the harvest season brought cool average temperatures along with extreme moisture in many areas, which slowed the dry-down of the corn and delayed harvest in U.S. Corn Belt. 

The Council has chronicled these growing conditions in its U.S. corn production video available online at http://tinyurl.com/USGCCornVideo. The video examines the crop quality and growing conditions of U.S. corn producers located in Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio. This video will be presented to international audiences in conjunction with findings from this report.

Though the harvest quality report is valuable to customers, corn quality will be affected by further handling. The Council will publish a second report, the Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, assessing the quality at the point of loading for international shipment, in March 2015.

The two reports are intended to provide reliable, timely and transparent information on the quality of U.S. corn as it moves through export channels by utilizing consistent methodology to permit the assessment of trends over time. The 2014/2015 editions of both reports are the fourth such reports in a series.

Click here to view a PDF of the 2014/2015 Corn Harvest Quality Report.