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Time and 'Tech' Sure Have Changed Us

Today's norm was unimaginable just 60 years ago

The other evening I pulled a big black and white photo out of my “family pictures” box. It got my mental cogs a-spinning about how agriculture has changed in just the last 60 years.


That picture showed my Grandpa Henry knocking out weeds in newly-emerged corn with the best technology of the early 1950s – a rotary hoe pulled by a two-popper John Deere A. Grandpa was progressive for his day. His broad-brimmed straw hat is today’s sun-safety standard. The picture was courtesy of the local newspaper which ran that photo on its cover.


That white Iowa corn crib in the background still stands today. It’s mostly used for shelled corn and soybean storage above the empty ear corn bins.


Spin ahead about 10 years, and my Dad, Alvin, got his complementary picture in the paper as one of Iowa’s first farmers to break the 150-bushel yield barrier. That was back in the day when DeKalb XL45 was the top bin-buster. (Bins weren’t so big back then.)


Jumping to year 2000, one late-July day  I yield-checked the corn on those same fields that Grandpa hoed. When I reported in at Noon to my cousin, he thought I’d had a heat stroke. But the whole farm averaged just one bushel short of my 210-bushel-per-acre projection – dried and binned.


200-bushel corn now passé


Today, 200-bushel-plus is a common yield on productive soils. And more and more corn growers are edging ever closer to 300 bushels. And if you ever see such a field in late July or early August, you’ll be as awe-struck as I was in the early 1980’s as I walked in the fields of the first farmer to top 300 bushels.


With perfect soil conditions and fertility, Herman Warsaw grew corn with stalks the size of sapling trees and roots twice the size of those on our farm. While neighboring corn rolled with moisture stress, mushrooms were still growing in the shade of Herman’s corn trees.


Yep, times and technologies sure have changed – for the better. And we probably haven’t seen anything yet. So don’t lose your vision of what could be in the future of agriculture. There’s much that’s exciting to come.


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