WASDE projects largest corn crop in history

Two things have been at work this growing season to assure that farmers bring in the largest corn crop in US history–13.16 billion bushels according to the latest estimate of the World Agricultural Outlook Board (USDA): across the 18 major corn producing states, weather has been favorable for a bountiful crop, and crop science companies and corn producers continue to develop the most productive combination of seed and crop production methodology that’s ever been seen.

The September 12 report actually drops the expected production and yield slightly from the previous month’s estimate: “Corn production for 2010/11 is forecast at 13,160 million bushels, down 205 million, but still the largest crop on record.  The national average yield is forecast at 162.5 bushels per acre, down 2.5 bushels.  The largest reductions in forecast yields are for the eastern Corn Belt, which account for more than half of the reduction in total output.”

At national average yield (and Minnesota will likely exceed the national average) production of corn in Minnesota would be well over 1.1 billion bushels this year. About half of the crop will be exported to overseas markets for use as animal feed, another fifth is fed to animals in Minnesota to produce dairy products, eggs, poultry, swine and beef. Minnesota is among the highest producers of turkeys and hogs in the nation, thanks to abundant corn for feed. And about a third of the crop is processed by Minnesota’s 21 ethanol plants into fuel that does not cost American lives, nor does it form a two-inch layer of oil sludge at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico (as scientists report finding in this week’s news).

Both DeVonna Zeug and Greg Schwarz, the president and president-elect of Minnesota Corn Growers Association, are traveling in China as part of a Minnesota state trade delegation. As the world population escalates to 9 billion by midcentury, China may become the world’s largest economy, and demand for animal protein will drive an incredible demand for grain for feed. According to the US Grains Council, US-produced corn is preferred by many livestock producers around the globe for its unquestioned superior quality to corn produced anywhere else.

Jerry Ploehn, a farmer in Alpha, Minnesota (Jackson County) and chairman of Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council commented on the prospect of a bin-busting harvest.

“What we have seen over the past decade is an unprecedented advance in crop science that has brought us a bigger, higher yield crop, which producers like myself bring forth in more bushels per acre, with less chemical inputs per bushel than has been possible over the course of the whole 20th century,” said Ploehn. “In corn, what we have is a plant that can bring forth 564 kernels for every one kernel planted as seed–and that ratio, already miraculous, will continue to rise as the major crop science companies introduce drought tolerant/high water-efficiency corn, as well as varieties that bear up well under heat stress. With our hungry planet–hungry for both protein and renewable, clean-burning energy–these developments couldn’t come at a better time. Farmers across the globe will be able to raise corn for food, feed, fiber and energy on fewer acres, with much greater yield and input efficiency

The WAOB report notes that the European Union will import a larger amount of US corn this year, to replace tons of wheat lost to drought in Russia.

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