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300-Bushel Corn Yields On Average? Not Anytime Soon.

Talk to any seed corn company
executive, and it sounds like the corn yield increase party will never end.
Some firms have set goals to either double current yields or consistently hit
the 300-bushel per acre yield mark in a few decades.

Yet, this may not occur
anytime soon.

 “If you look at the evidence and data we have,
the odds of this happening are not too good,” says Roger Elmore, Iowa State
University (ISU) Extension agronomist. Elmore addressed this topic at last
month’s ISU Integrated Crop Management Conference.

In 2013, estimated average
U.S. corn yield was just over 160 bushels per acre.

 “If we extend the 30-year yield trend out, it
intersects the 300- bushel mark in 2080,” says Elmore. “One way to look at it
is if you have a granddaughter who is two years old, she will be in her 70s around
that time when it happens.”

Instead, the average
trendline yields increases peg the 2030 national average at 193 bushels per
acre.

It’s Possible

There certainly are cases
where corn yields have hit or exceeded 300 bushels per acre. That’s possible
due to modern genetics, excellent management, and stress-free environments,
says Elmore.

On a large scale,
though, hitting these stratospheric yield levels is more difficult. Most
producers don’t have the right combination of all three factors.

Game-changing
technology could change this. A yield gene that solely boosts yields – and not
deterring pests—could alter this equation. For example, a yield gene that boosts
yield 25% could alter this equation, says Elmore.

For now, though,
there’s evidence yields have stabilized in some areas. In Nebraska, Elmore says
yields of winners of the irrigated National Corn Growers Association yield
contest have been flat since 1990. These are conditions with the best soils and
abundant water, Elmore notes. This suggests that a yield plateau may have been
reached in this case, he says.

 

 

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