We studied crop harvested yield, as recorded in national agricultural stati
stics, to estimate net primary production (NPP) in agricultural regions whe
re most of the land area is sown with a few, well-studied crops. We estimat
ed the magnitudes and interannual variations in NPP in croplands in the U.S
. Midwest using crop area and yield data obtained from the U.S. National Ag
ricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Total NPP, including estimates of the
above- and belowground components, was calculated from harvested-yield dat
a by (1) conversion from reporting units of yield of the crop product (Usua
lly in volume) to mass, (2) conversion from fresh mass to dry mass, (3) est
imation of aboveground yield using crop harvest indices, defined as the rat
io of economic product (e.g., grain) dry mass to plant aboveground dry mass
, and (4) estimation of belowground yield as a function of aboveground biom
ass. This approach is applied to corn, soybean, sorghum, sunflower, oats, b
arley, wheat, and hay in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minn
esota, North Dakota, and Ohio for 1992, and in Iowa for 1982 through 1996.
Many counties in the eight states had > 70% coverage of these crops. In Iow
a. corn and soybean accounted for > 50% of the land area in most counties.
County-level NPP in 1992 ranged from 4 Mg.ha(-1).yr(-1) biomass (x0.5 in te
rms of carbon) in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to > 17 Mg.ha(-1).
yr(-1) in central Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio. Areas of highest NPP were domin
ated by corn and soybean cultivation. NPP for counties in Iowa varied among
years by a factor of 2, with the lowest NPP in 1983 (which had an unusuall
y wet spring), in 1988 (which was a drought year), and in 1993 (which exper
ienced floods). A sensitivity analysis, conducted by varying harvest index
and root:shoot ratio by 10-50%, indicated that the limit of accuracy of the
method is similar to1 Mg.ha(-1).yr(-1).