As the old saying goes "Go west, young man, go west", the corn belt will probably be expanding at least 300 miles to the west over the next few years. As part of the two-day agricultural symposium held in Omaha last week, this was one of the central themes of the meeting.
Drought resistant corn seed could expand the corn belt at much as 300 miles to the west. Assuming that the depth of this expansion would be 500 miles north and south would put up to 150,000 square miles of additional area that could grow corn. This is a gross area of about 96 million acres.
In addition, new non-thirsty corn varieties could let corn belt growers raise just as much corn with far less water for irrigation, while protecting non-irrigated fields from drought damage.
Echoing comments by several panelists at the conference, C.G. "Kelly" Holthus, chairman and CEO of Cornerstone Bank of York, Neb. said the future of agriculture looks bright. He called today's farm economy "the golden age of agriculture".
William Wilson, a distinguished professor of agriculture from North Dakota State University, said Monsanto and other biotech companies are in the final stages of developing corn varieties to thrive in low-moisture conditions. The seeds are due to come onto the market in about three years, he said, joining herbicide-resistant seed and other genetically modified crops that have improved farm yields and profits in recent years.
However, this does not mean that corn will stretch all 300 miles wide. Farmers will decide what to plant based upon the financial yield that the various crops offer and other factors.