Monday, November 07, 2011

U.S. Corn Yields Have Increased Six Times Since the 1930s and Are Estimated to Double By 2030

The chart above displays annual U.S. corn yields (bushels per acre) back to 1866 (USDA data here).  After remaining flat between 1866 and 1939 at about 26 bushels per acre, corn yields started increasing dramatically in the 1940s due to the introduction of hybrid seeds, and the widespread use of nitrogen fertilizers and herbicides (source).  By 2009, average corn yields had increased by more than six times to a record high 165 bushels per acre, before falling to 153 bushels per acre last year, and an estimated 148.1 bushels per acre for 2011.   

Corn facts from the Corn Farmers Coalition:

1. Farmers today grow five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s – on 20 percent less land. That is 13 million acres or 20,000 square miles, twice the size of Massachusetts. The yield per acre has skyrocketed from 24 bushels in 1931 to 154 now, or a six-fold gain.

2. The national average of 153 bushels produced on each acre in 2010 was nearly 20 percent larger than the average yield in 2002 – and plant breeding experts estimate yields may jump 40 percent before 2020 and, perhaps, hit a national average of 300 bushels per acre by 2030.

3. America’s corn farmers are by far the most productive in the world, growing 20% more corn per acre than any other nation.

HT: Dennis Gartman, who discussed historical corn yields in today's "The Gartman Letter."  

29 Comments:

At 11/07/2011 9:21 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Don't you mean Bourbon for cars while children starve?

 
At 11/07/2011 9:55 AM, OpenID moneyjihad said...

Meanwhile, the OWS fleabaggers want an end to "corporate food" and an embrace of local, slow, seasonal, and halal foods.

They want to return to less productive days where more & more people have to work more & more farms for less & less yields.

 
At 11/07/2011 11:15 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Rising corn yields (and palm oil yields) are fascinating. Though the annual increase is small--2 percent to 4 percent--over time yields double.

The USA's ethanol program is a lousy idea. And yet, in another 30 years, yields may be high enough that it makes sense.

A better idea might be a pure ethanol car, using higher engine compression ratios. Add that to a PHEV, and presto-change-o, the USA has oil gluts.

 
At 11/07/2011 11:42 AM, Blogger rjs said...

moneyjihad, do you have a source for that allegation about OWS?

 
At 11/07/2011 12:08 PM, Blogger My baby Joy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11/07/2011 12:10 PM, Blogger My baby Joy said...

Dr.Perry, the us agriculture department has a special incentives for corn planting. This policy will discourage of other countries of corn planting. If this policy continues for years in the future, the US will gain significant benefit in the agriculture industry. On the other hand, other countries will rely on the US. The price of the major agriculture mercantile will increase sharply. Then we will see the inflation......

 
At 11/07/2011 12:52 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Subsidize something and you get more of it.

If we cut federal corn subsidies, as we should, the corn industry would be just fine judging by this information. Stop the subsidies!

 
At 11/07/2011 12:52 PM, Blogger spencer said...

Man, the Department of Agriculture financing and disseminating all that research on better crops and practices
sure did a great job didn't it.

My Great Uncle who was a county agricultural agent in the 1930s would have been so proud.

 
At 11/07/2011 1:28 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

spencer: "Man, the Department of Agriculture financing and disseminating all that research on better crops and practices
sure did a great job didn't it.

My Great Uncle who was a county agricultural agent in the 1930s would have been so proud.
"

I sense sarcasm here, but it's not clear what point you are trying to make. Could you rewrite this in a way that those of us who don't know you can understand?

 
At 11/07/2011 1:34 PM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11/07/2011 1:35 PM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

Dr. Perry, This is a great chart. These long term charts like this one are why I keep coming back to the Carpe Diem Blog. Keep up the great work.

 
At 11/07/2011 1:53 PM, Blogger limitup said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11/07/2011 1:54 PM, Blogger limitup said...

Justin Bieber now runs Monsanto Corp.

 
At 11/07/2011 2:03 PM, OpenID thefarmerslife said...

It is interesting to see how much yields have improved. Supposedly the next ten years is going to bring big potential for soybeans too, which often get overshadowed by corn. I think we are going to see some federal dollars leave ag in the next iteration of the Farm Bill. Direct payments seem very likely to be cut which is fine with me. I can understand the gov't helping an industry grab a foothold in a competitive market with those who have been in the game a long time like we see in energy. Ethanol may not be the way to go, but doubled corn yields and the fact the production gets more efficient all the time will certainly help. That's why I think it's time for biofuel to begin to stand on it's own merits.

That's not to say we shouldn't be going after our own oil, natural gas etc. I think we can do both. Another thing that would biofuel engines that can use it more efficiently. Until we can get past the fact the E85 gets worse mileage than gasoline, or ethanol gets cheap enough to make up the difference, it will be hard to get a leg up on gas. Another thought would be to look at butanol which can be transported via existing pipelines, etc. unlike ethanol at this time.

 
At 11/07/2011 2:17 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

The Farmers Life-

I agree with everything you say--but check out what happens to ethanol mpgs when the compression ratio gets high enough. Like diesel.

You just have to run ethanol pure, through a diesel-like engine.

 
At 11/07/2011 2:30 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

this is going to be another year of high corn prices though.

the crop is down 10%+ from last year due to a short, cold season.

this is going to be much more common in the coming years.

the pacific decadal occilation turned cold. it will stay cold for 30 years.

that means colder temps in the US, more la ninas, and shorter growing seasons.

it will be interesting to see what that does to the yield trajectory.

 
At 11/07/2011 5:10 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Amazing!

I knew Morgan was an expert on finance and business and UFOs, but now he confidently predicts weather ahead by 30 years!

 
At 11/07/2011 5:25 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Tom whined :

"Don't you mean Bourbon for cars while children starve?"

Children are not starving, you fool. Child obesity is a much bigger problem in the US than the reverse.

 
At 11/07/2011 6:01 PM, OpenID thefarmerslife said...

@morganovich

I've been reading about direct injection of ethanol in gas/ethanol engines that operate somewhat like a diesel and have much more torque than a regular gas engine. Alcohol also runs cooler than gas. If we can make improvements at both ends, production and combustion, things will be looking good! Another step along with drilling on the path to energy independence and American jobs.

 
At 11/08/2011 5:17 AM, Blogger Manuel said...

And also the chickens!!!
http://manuelalvarezlopez.blogspot.com/2011/10/genetics-of-bigger-chickens-matt-ridley.html

 
At 11/08/2011 12:08 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"do you have a source for that allegation about OWS?"...

Consider the obvious observations of the OWS crowd as expressed by David Harsanyi: THE REAL LUDDITES

 
At 11/08/2011 3:47 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

U.S. Corn Yields Have Increased Six Times Since the 1930s and Are Estimated to Double By 2030

I would not be betting against the advances being made by the seed companies. But let us note that in order to double the yield you need to assume that growing seasons will stay the same duration or increase. The problem is that the solar data does not support that assumption. That would mean that we better have new seeds that can be planted much later and harvested sooner.

 
At 11/20/2011 11:01 PM, OpenID thefarmerslife said...

"That would mean that we better have new seeds that can be planted much later and harvested sooner."

Not all hybrids are created equal now. I don't grow the same maturity group of corn and soybeans here in Indiana as would be grown in the southern states. They have pretty short season varieties when you get into the Dakotas and Canada. We grow beans after wheat on our farm which are planted around Fourth of July. We have to use a short season variety in order for them to mature in time for harvest. As a reference our normal beans are planted April/May.

We are actually using much longer growing seasons than we used to. My grandfather always recalls that you didn't even think about going to the field for planting before Memorial Day earlier in his lifetime.

 
At 11/21/2011 8:47 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

We are actually using much longer growing seasons than we used to. My grandfather always recalls that you didn't even think about going to the field for planting before Memorial Day earlier in his lifetime.

Of course you have a longer growing season when the PDO/AMO are positive. But that is now over and we are going back to the same type of weather patterns that we had in the 1950 to 1975 period. That means more damage from frost and shorter planting seasons.

 
At 11/21/2011 1:33 PM, OpenID thefarmerslife said...

Obviously we can't control the weather, but there are plenty of other things we can do. Yields are going to keep going up incrementally.

 
At 1/08/2012 1:30 PM, Blogger DavidTheScientist said...

And this is why ethanol will never power all cars in the US, or anywhere else for that matter:
http://hir.harvard.edu/agriculture/corn-ethanol-as-energy

As for why so many people are starving or malnourished, this misuse of corn plays a role; however the one of the main causes is food price increases. See "Preventing hunger: Change economic policy" by Peter Rosset.

And before you bash OWS for wanting smaller scale farming, read "Recent developments in intellectual property and power in the private sector related to food and agriculture", by Michael Blakeney. If your brain is working correctly, it should scare the shit out of you...

 
At 2/23/2012 6:34 PM, OpenID moneyjihad said...

To rjs, indeed I can provide a reference regarding the Occupy movement's opposition to "corporate food." Take, for example, OWS's Oct. 29, 2011 rally against "big food" in Zucotti Park:

http://moneyjihad.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/halal-food-sharia-finance-2-trillion-industry/

 
At 3/31/2012 3:05 PM, OpenID chimel said...

Do you have a cached version of that USDA link? It seems to be broken.

 
At 4/02/2012 2:03 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

The link still works for me, please try it again.

 

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