What Will Yields Look Like in 50 years

Published on: 19:45PM Aug 29, 2010

I have read several articles recently regarding the trend in yields for corn and beans over the last 20-30 years.  During the 1980's and early 1990's, the average increase in corn yields was about 1.5%.  During the last 15 years or so, the yield increase has been closer to 2%.  How will corn yields look over the next 50 years assuming that they increase by either 1.5% or 2%.  This table recaps those potential yields based upon using the 2009 average yield of 162.9:

                               1.5%                           2.0%

  • Year 10                 189                             199
  • Year 20                 219                             242
  • Year 30                 255                             295
  • Year 40                 296                             360
  • Year 50                 343                             438

Just a .5% difference in yield results in overall yield in year 50 being 438 bushels per acre instead of 343 or a difference of about 28%.  These numbers do look very high, but think back 20 or 30 years.  At that time, did you think that corn yields would go from less than 100 bushels per acre on average to an estimated 165 bushels for this year.  I know that several of the seed companies are discussing 300 bushel corn as not being too far off for the average farmer in the corn belt.

For beans, the average increase has been lower on average per year at about 1.3%.  Plugging these numbers into the same table basing it on the 43.3 2009 bean average results as follows:


  • Year 10                 49                   
  • Year 20                 56                            
  • Year 30                 64                            
  • Year 40                 73                            
  • Year 50                 83

These increases in yields probably account for some of the increase in land prices over the last 10 or more years.  With yields going up by around 1.3% to 2% per year, the return per acre is going up by this amount (assuming prices stay steady).  This would result in prices going up by at least this same amount to reflect the extra income.