Many producers are wondering whether the development of genetically modified hybrids and the improvement in hybrid yield potential and stress tolerance has made the corn crop more “drought-proof” now than it was in 1988.

Emerson Nafziger, a professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois, said that as the drought worsened over the past weeks, he was regularly asked how this year’s yields are likely to be affected and how they will compare with the yields after the 1988 drought.

On Aug. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) projected that the 2012 Illinois corn yield would be 116 bushels per acre, an estimate that Nafziger said could still change.

Projected yields range from 143 bushels in the Northwest Crop Reporting District (CRD) to 80 bushels in the East Southeast CRD.

In 1988, the average Illinois corn yield was 73 bushels per acre, and yields ranged from 87 bushels in the southeast (actually higher than the estimate of 86 bushels for this year in that CRD) to only 63 bushels in the northwest.

“The pattern of dryness in Illinois was very different in the two years, with southern Illinois relatively better than northern Illinois in 1988,” Nafziger noted.

“In 2012, dryness was more evenly distributed, which led to a closer correlation between soil water-holding capacity and yields.”