March 21, 2011
The strangest thing happened the other day. I was at a news conference for an ag chemical company and one of the speakers talked about perhaps reaching 300 bushels per acre for corn in the U.S. by 2050. He was using it as an example of how we could field the world population expected to exist by then.
Someone in the audience actually asked this question: "Wait a minute, I thought the prediction was we could reach 300 bushels per acre by 2030? Are you now saying the industry has backed off on being able to do that?"
The ironic answer to the first question is that Monsanto, this company's competitor, has been the one touting 300 bushels of corn per acre (average) by 2030, no one else as far as I know. In fact, ag economists a the University of Illinois, using weather data and computer analyses, have questioned whether that's even possible, let alone realistic.
The striking part if that Monsanto has done such a good job selling the concept, and explaining how their technologies can help farmers get there, that it's become very close to a fact—the prediction is that U.S. average corn yield will reach 300 bushels per acre by 2030. If you ever use that, be sure to attribute it to Monsanto, because it's not only part of their ad campaign, but appears to be part of their strategy.
From listening to Rob Fraley, one of Monsanto's highest-ranking research officers, talk before, Monsanto is convinced that this could happen. They base it on advances in yield over the past decade, and their expectation of advances in yield in the coming nearly two decades, based on the technologies they and others will hopefully bring to the market. Some things that will be used in 2030 haven't even been discovered yet in all likelihood. But researchers may well be developing them or uncovering an event that will lead to a trait that helps produce more yield as you read this article.
The bottom line is that most plant breeders and company leaders in the seed industry expect the U.S. average yield to continue rising. How fast it will rise and how far before leveling off is subject to debate. Whether we can reach 300 bushels per acre without major changes, such as changing the basic architecture of the corn plant, or inventing new planting equipment that helps more precisely match the best performing seed to precision spots within the field remains as question marks.
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