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300 bushel corn?

In 1992, Ohio's corn crop
achieved a record yield of 143 bushels per acre. Since then, genetic
improvements have led to even higher yields, with the state's 2010 crop
averaging a very respectable 163 bushels per acre. Now, the buzz across the
nation's Corn Belt is that a remarkable 300 bushels per acre is possible by the
year 2030.

Is such a feat achievable?
Ohio State University Extension specialist Peter Thomison will explore the idea
during a capstone presentation, "300 bushels/acre by 2030: A certainty? A
possibility? Or science fiction?" at Corn University, part of the 2011
Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, Feb. 24-25 in Ada, Ohio.

Corn University is scheduled
for 11 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, and will include presentations
by specialists from Purdue University, the University of Illinois and the
University of Kentucky. Thomison's session will be followed by a panel
discussion to wrap up the day.

The Conservation Tillage and
Technology Conference will be held at the McIntosh Center of Ohio Northern
University. Early registration (before Feb. 15) is $50 for one day or $70 for
both days. More information and registration materials are available at http://ctc.osu.edu.

Thomison himself is
interested in hearing what his colleagues from neighboring states will say on
the topic, he said. They will be offering different perspectives, from what
factors limit and promote corn yield, to how the corn plant's metabolism
responds to different cultural practices, to managing high yields in no-till
environments.

Continued improvements in
plant genetics -- and, of course, ideal weather conditions -- will be the
driving force behind achieving 300 bushel per acre corn, Thomison said.

"Looking at the
long-term trendline, going all the way back to when hybrids were first
introduced in the 1930s, we're looking at trendlines showing yields increasing
by about 1.6 bushels per acre per year in Ohio," he said. But beginning in
1996 when transgenics were first widely planted, yields began to increase by
three bushels per acre per year in some states. Already, some Ohio farmers are
achieving yields of 200 to 250 bushels per acre on their best fields, Thomison
said.

That bodes well for the
future, particularly if yields continue to increase at three or more bushels
per acre a year, he said. It's important to keep in mind, though, that yield
trendlines can vary considerably depending on the time interval selected, so
trendlines based on a limited number of years are less reliable in projecting
yields than those based over longer periods of time.

"If we look at the
yields in those fields where we have growers who are achieving 250 bushels
right now, and we look at the three-bushel per acre per year trendline, we can
get to 300 bushels by 2030, because we're already at an elevated level of
yields -- almost 100 bushels over the state average. And if we're looking at
six bushels per acre per year, then well, we have no problem. But even with 3
bushels per acre per year, we're going to get to 300 bushels on many Ohio
fields, and that's what I think is mind-boggling.

"Now, if we go back to
a 1.6 increase in bushels per acre per year -- the current long-term rate --
that's another story."

Thomison said the discussion
between specialists from different universities and different states and the
ability to interact with growers and crop advisers with a wide range of
experience makes Corn University a prime opportunity for exploring and
exchanging new ideas. The event has been part of the CTC for three years. 

The Conservation Tillage and
Technology Conference is the largest, most comprehensive program of
conservation tillage techniques in the Midwest. Last year, it attracted 966
participants. About 60 presenters (farmers, industry professionals, and
university specialists) from around the country focus on cost-saving,
production management topics. The conference is broken down into tracks
covering soil and water; nutrient and manure management; advanced scouting
techniques; cover crops; crop management; and planters and precision
agriculture.

Sponsors of the conference
include OSU Extension, OARDC, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation
Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service
Agency, and the Ohio No-Till Council.

By Martha Filipic, Ohio State University

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