Understanding the impact of sub-seasonal meteorological variability on corn yield in the U.S. Corn Belt

Hao Jiang, Hao Hu, Shaowen Wang, Yibin Ying, Tao Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rain-fed corn system has varied optimal environmental requirements by growth phases and regions. Understanding spatiotemporal characteristics of such requirements are important to ensure food security. To capture the stage-variant growing requirements, we develop and compare statistical models with various spatial and temporal resolutions to quantify the relationships between corn yield and meteorological factors. Multilinear regression models are trained using cross-sectional datasets pooled at three magnitudes (state, district, county) with temperature and precipitation related predictors according to three temporal resolutions (growing season, fixed month, growing phase). The models are applied to the U.S. Corn Belt for the time period of 1981–2016. The results show that average corn yield variation explained by meteorological factors can be improved to 50.2% at the agricultural district scale with growth phase resolution from ~30% at the state-level with growing season resolution. The results reveal that corn yield is most sensitive to extreme heat stress during the grain filling phase. From a spatial perspective, the northern counties in the U.S. Corn Belt are less limited by precipitation resources but are more vulnerable to extreme heat. The spatiotemporal explicit statistic modeling approach quantifies the impact and adaptation potential of changing the planting date for production. Appropriate adaptions by changing plant dates can increase the potential of corn production by 0.87 million Mg year−1 in the Corn Belt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number138235
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Corn yield
  • Growth phase
  • Meteorology
  • Spatiotemporal resolution
  • Statistical analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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