The continental United States, from sea to shining sea and across all those purple mountains, stretches some 3.1 million square miles. About four percent of that land, some 150,000 square miles, is devoted to growing just one kind of amber grain: maize.
Corn is the dominant American crop, produced in greater quantities in the United States than anywhere else. From Midwestern soil it flows to popcorn bags, feed troughs, car gas tanks, and a widely used sugar substitute. The U.S. goes to enormous pains to understand and underwrite this economic engine. Every month between August and January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases a major forecast of how corn is doing in various states.
The government is not the only entity to predict output in this way—insurers and financial intelligence firms do it too—but, this week, farmers in search of forecasts will have a new place to turn. Starting Wednesday, a company called Descartes Labs will release weekly summaries of how the maize crop is faring in the United States. The estimates, based primarily on algorithmic analysis of satellite data, will estimate corn yields at the national, state, and county level. They’ll be available for free through Descartes Labs’s website and app.
This is the second harvest for which Descartes will release weekly estimates. Last year, the company forecast maize production for individual states and for the country as a whole. (Paying customers have access to the company’s API and its two-day updates.)