U.S. corn yields up
The nation's corn crop will likely average 158.4
bu./acre in 2004, up from a record average yield of 142.2 bu./acre in
2003, according to the USDA. This year's 16.2-bu. jump is much more than
the average 1.5-bu./acre increase in U.S. corn yields that typically
occurs from one year to the next, says Jeff Volenec, Purdue University
"Although yields went up 16 bu./acre this year, this is not an accurate
average increase across time," Volenec says. "The best indicator for
future yield increases is 1.5 bu./acre, which is the long-term average
increase, over decades, across a wide geographical area."
Good growing conditions are the main reason for any big yield jump from
year to year, including 2004's big boost in corn yields, Volenec says.
However, hybrid selection and management practices also play a part,
especially over time.
"What we had this year was a very good environment for corn production
across a wide area," says Volenec. "Some of the yield increase is a
result of better genetics and more astute management, but the majority
of the yield increase is weather related."
Weather will largely determine if the U.S. corn crop hits a third
consecutive new high in 2005. "Looking at the historical data for U.S.
corn yields over time (1960 to 2003), there are only four instances
where yields increased in three consecutive years," Volenec points out.
"That's only four times in 43 years, so it does happen, but it's more
the exception than the rule."
For more information on the nation's upward trend in corn yields, click
on this USDA link: www.usda.gov/nass/aggraphs/cornyld.htm.
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Farm computer use grows
Half of all U.S. farms and ranches, more than one
million total, now have access to the Internet, according to the USDA's
2002 Census of Agriculture. Slightly less, a little more than 800,000,
use computers for their farm and ranch businesses.
For more information about computer use and the 2002 Census of
Agriculture, log on to the following USDA site:
Trend toward early planting boosts
Better hybrids and management practices have helped U.S.
corn growers double their yields during the last 30 years and increase
yields sevenfold since 1930. Properly managing soil fertility, drainage,
compaction, tillage and pest control all contribute to good yields, says
Jeff Volenec, Purdue University Extension agronomist, but planting early
can also be an important factor.
"It is critical to have high amounts of leaf area present on the plants
when the longest days of the year occur -- around mid-June for most of
the Corn Belt," Volenec says. "Early planting (with favorable weather)
permits extensive leaf area development, high photosynthesis per plant
and high yield."
Early planting is an increasing trend "that helps get the crop going,"
Volenec says. "Over 90% of what a plant is composed of comes from
photosynthesis, the remainder from soil nutrients. So establishing
leaves and starting photosynthesis early helps convert more light into
Given the right conditions, corn plants can yield much higher than the
158.4-bu./acre average that the USDA forecasts for 2004. Volenec says
corn yield contests confirm that top hybrids can yield between 300 and
400 bu./acre under near perfect conditions, "but research models suggest
that corn yields might have a theoretical maximum between 400 and 500
Fall continues to be the time for agricultural
conferences to convene on various topics. Here are three that will begin
The "New Frontier" conference on agricultural energy and products,
including wind farming, bio-refining, bio-industry and fuel cells and
hydrogen in agriculture, begins on November 9 in Brookings, SD. For more
information, log on to this university Web site: sungrant.sdstate.org/anfconference.
The 34th North Central Extension-Industry Soil Fertility Conference
starts on Nov. 17 at 1:00 p.m. and ends at noon on November 18 at the
Holiday Inn Airport in Des Moines, IA. Topics include developing
nitrogen recommendation systems and fertilizer placement in fall strip
tillage. For more information, log on to the following university Web
A conference titled "Marketing Strategies for Consumer-Driven
Agriculture" will convene at 9:00 a.m. on November 4, at the Interstate
Center in Bloomington, IL. Topics include value-added food products and
direct marketing. For more information, visit web.extension.uiuc.edu/iidea/index.html.
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Corporate farm trend
Up until 1997, the number of corporate farms was
steadily increasing without interruption. However, from 1997 until 2002,
the number of corporate farms fell 18.4%, according to the USDA 2002
Census of Agriculture. Currently, individuals or families operate 90% of
For more information about the 2002 Census of Agriculture, visit www.nass.usda.gov/census.
Report from the field
The corn harvest in most of eastern Iowa is off to a
good start, according to Jeff Housman, Mycogen Seeds district
agronomist. "The yields are better than expected and comparable to last
year and the year before last," Housman reports. "That makes three solid
years of good yields."
Earlier concerns over crop maturity and frost damage in northeast Iowa
have mostly evaporated. "Almost everything was physiologically mature
before frost came through," Housman says. "Test weights and drydown have
been good and moisture levels are normal. Standability appears to be
good, but farmers should still prioritize their fields to minimize
potential field losses from any lodging that might occur."
In northeast Nebraska, corn is also yielding well, says Steve Keck, an
independent crop consultant from Plainview, NE. "It's about an average
to an above-average crop," he reports.
Dryland corn yields in northeast Nebraska are running about 40 to 80
bu./acre better than last year, Keck says. Irrigated yields are about 30
bu./acre less than last year, he adds.
"We lost some early-season nitrogen due to early, heavy rains," Keck
says. "We also had too many cool, cloudy days to make optimal grain fill
on our irrigated corn. On dryland acreage, yields varied considerably,
depending on soil type and rainfall received."
Keck says he treated 60% of his clients' acres for western bean cutworm
this year, but European corn borer populations were very light, with
moth flights at their lowest level since 1985. Other than a little gray
leaf spot, late-season rust and leaf blotch, disease problems have been
In Missouri and eastern Kansas, good weather has moved corn harvest
along quickly, according to Jami Deters, Mycogen Seeds district
agronomist. Harvest is about three-quarters finished, and yields are
well above average.
"We're seeing 200-bu./acre dryland corn on fields that have never
yielded more than 150 bu./acre," Deters says. "In Missouri, a lot of
bottomland ground is pushing 270 bu./acre."
Deters says this year's corn crop has good kernel size, test weight and
moisture levels, in both eastern Kansas and Missouri. "The cool summer
has been ideal, giving us an extended grain fill period," he says. "In
western Kansas, the crop isn't as fully developed because it didn't get
the heat units."
Diseases and insect pests have been minimal for the area, he adds, with
only some isolated incidents of corn borer infestations.
Trendspotting Web site
For more information about trends and conditions in
grain corn production, log on to www.trendspotting.biz. While
you're there, you can find answers to questions about your operation.
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