Corn yields have been growing for decades and that trend is expected to continue for decades to come due to hybrid corn and experimentation with the size of growing rows, but changing row sizes to increase yields is no easy feat.
Rodney Weinzierl, executive director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, said hybrid corn — or corn that has been created by crossing different kinds of corn parents — have been bred to grow more in smaller spaces.
Weinzierl said small rows are typically less than 30 inches and wide rows are between 36 to 40 inches.
Transitioning to smaller rows takes time and money, Weinzierl said. “You have to buy a new corn planter. You have to buy a new con head for the combine, and you are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to make that jump.”
Consumers should know that 99.8 percent of corn in the U.S. is hybrid corn and it has been since the 1940’s, Weinzierl said.
“All the research, all the testing, all the licensing that’s been done is all this corn is safe for human consumption,” Weinzierl said.
Since hybrid corn generates higher yields, farmers have to protect their crops from cross contamination.
“They don’t want it to cross pollinate with their corn so they will put buffer rows around the perimeter of their field so that doesn’t happen,” Weinzierl said.
Weinzierl said as Illinois farmers get more efficient and corn breeders continue to do their jobs, corn yields will continue to go up for years to come.
Last year about 15 billion bushels of corn was produced in the U.S. but demand was for 14.4 billion bushels according to Weinzierl, which impacts the bottom line for Illinois farmers.
“If production or supply gets too large, relative to what the demand is, then farmer economics go down, and that’s what’s happened over the last three years,” Weinzierl said.
–Illinois News Network