Climatic Change

, Volume 130, Issue 2, pp 247–260 | Cite as

The effects of extremely wet planting conditions on maize and soybean yields

  • Daniel W. UrbanEmail author
  • Michael J. Roberts
  • Wolfram Schlenker
  • David B. Lobell


Short durations of very high spring soil moisture can influence crop yields in many ways, including delaying planting and damaging young crops. The central United States has seen a significant upward trend in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation in the 20th century, potentially leading to more frequent occurrences of saturated or nearly saturated fields during the planting season, yet the impacts of these changes on crop yields are not known. Here we investigate the yield response to excess spring moisture for both maize and soybean in the U.S. states of Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana, and the impacts of historical trends for 1950–2011. We find that simple measures of extreme spring soil moisture, derived from fine-scale daily moisture data from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model, lead to significant improvements in statistical models of yields for both crops. Individual counties experience up to 10 % loss in years with extremely wet springs. However, losses due to historical trends in excess spring moisture measures have generally been small, with 1–3 % yield loss over the 62 year study period.


Soil Moisture Cover Crop Extreme Precipitation Moisture Effect Heavy Precipitation Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Elizabeth Clark of the University of Washington for providing downscaled VIC soil moisture data, Michael Livingston of the USDA for crop reporting district tiling data, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback. This work was fundedthrough the NSF grant SES-0962625 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration grant NA11OAR4310095.

Supplementary material

10584_2015_1362_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.6 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1676 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel W. Urban
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael J. Roberts
    • 2
  • Wolfram Schlenker
    • 3
  • David B. Lobell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth System Science and Center on Food Security and the EnvironmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.School of International and Public AffairsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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