And this might be just the beginning, according to experts interviewed for the March/April issue of Ethanol Today.
Many believe corn yields could double again by mid-century. In its strategic plan, the National Corn Growers Association says it's using a "conservative forecast" of 205 bushels per acre by 2020. NCGA President and family farmer Darrin Ihnen notes in his ET guest editorial that the 24 winners of last year's national corn yield contest averaged yields of 300 bushels per acre or better. That gives us a glimpse at what future yields may be possible.
Ethanol critics, take note -- with yield improvements like this, it does not require the tilling of more land to grow more corn. With better seed genetics and new farming technologies, America's farmers are growing larger crops on the same amount of land. In fact, last year's record corn crop was actually grown on 7 million fewer acres than were used to grow the previous record. And it's important to note that these crops are being produced using fewer energy inputs and with less environmental impact. In farming, just like in other industries, they're figuring out ways to do things more sustainably.
"The times, they are a-changin'," as the saying goes. My dad says when he started farming in the late '50s, corn yields of 100 bushels per acre weren't even imaginable. Today, triple-digit yields are the norm, even here in South Dakota where we're considered to be in the western part of the Corn Belt. My husband and I are honored to be the fifth generation on my family's farm. What will yields look like during our generation and the next? I'm excited to be here as it all unfolds.
The world is a bigger place today, with a growing number of people and a larger population that can afford more protein in their diet. We also need to diversify our energy supplies and wean ourselves from the petroleum-only diet. What a better solution than to take this abundance of corn, use the starch to make renewable ethanol, and use the actual "food" portions of the kernel to create a high-protein livestock feed at the same production facility. Seems like a win-win.
America's farmers are the most productive anywhere, and I know they're up to the task of producing the food, feed, fiber, and fuel that the world needs. Go farmers!
Click on the cover image at the left to view the new digital version of Ethanol Today magazine.
Posted by: Kristin Brekke