It makes me wonder why I see farms now out planting corn, while when I was a kid, we usually weren’t out with the corn planter until May 15th. What has changed that we are out planting almost a full month earlier.
We look at the “I gotta beat the neighbor into the field” syndrome. I remember hearing the story of how my grandfather once did a lap around the field with the tractor and digger in early March before the frost had come out. Little did the neighbors know that he didn’t actually put the digger in the frost, but it sure got everyone in the neighborhood talking.
When I started thinking about what has happened I decided to look at the change in our results. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service website, average corn yield in 1977 for the United States was 90.8 bushels. Last year, it was 153.9 bushels, that’s a 70% increase in corn yield during my lifetime.
I guess we could blame that on global warming, but I don’t remember Al Gore when I was a kid, and even if he was around I’m certain it hasn’t shifted our seasons an entire month.
Certainly the equipment has gotten better, and more people are comfortable getting in the fields earlier in the spring. It may be the nice cab tractors with air ride seats, radios, lots of lights. It’s now also common to hear of people planting narrow corn rows and getting more put in per acre.
What about the seed corn companies with their better genetics? There are some great people working at these companies already trying to formulate next year’s seed to be even better than this year’s. We now have corn resistant to just about everything, including drought.
Finally we can look at the farmers themselves. Probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and they all do it well. Farmers are constantly changing, adapting to their environment, looking at management practices, and doing what’s best for their part of the world.
So thank you to the people who manufacture and sell the equipment, the scientists and field people that work for the seed companies, but mostly thank you to all the farmers out there who feed the world. I’m looking forward to seeing some corn this year knee high by the fourth of June.