Corn likes to grow here in Minnesota—even in a year of adverse weather conditions

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

It’s a combination of climate, soils and farmer know-how—corn likes to grow in Minnesota.

Numbers released last week by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA) offer the final picture for the 2011 crop year in its Crop Production 2011 Summary. These data show there are few places that do corn better than Minnesota.

2011 had all the attributes that keep farmers lying awake at night—a long, wet spring with little real heat until July, storms with high winds afflicting plants before they could even pollinate and finally an early frost. Still and all, Minnesota’s 157 bushels per acre average yield put it in close contention with the top producing states: Iowa (172), Nebraska (Many of these acres are irrigated—160), Ohio (158) and Illinois (157). These compare to the national yield of 147.2 bushels per acre.

Even with all the weather challenges, Minnesota corn producers brought in 1.2 billion bushels of corn in 2011. With strong commodity prices this has brought a welcome shot in the arm as the state and nation still struggle with a sluggish economy.

The most telling data point about how well suited the corn crop is to the growing conditions and agronomic practices on Minnesota farms is plant populations. Using random scientific sampling, NASS-USDA looks at places in 10 of the top corn producing states and estimates average plant populations per acre. The 29,350 corn plants per acre in Minnesota is topped by only two states–30,050 plants per acre in Iowa and 29,600 in Illinois. Minnesota even beats Nebraska’s irrigated acres, hands down, where they raise 26,800 plants per acre.

Other important dimensions of this year’s corn crop in Minnesota: Minnesota farmers planted 8.1 million acres of corn and harvested 7.7 million of those acres. Corn represented 41 percent of the state’s planted crop acres and just under 40 percent of all harvested acres last year. By area, Minnesota corn acres represented 9 percent of the nation’s crop. By volume, Minnesota’s 1.2 billion bushels represents 9.7 percent of total corn production for last year in the United States.

Here is the NASS-USDA summary of 2011 corn production nationwide:

Corn for grain production is estimated at 12.4 billion bushels, up slightly from the November 1 forecast but 1 percent below 2010. The average yield in the United States for 2011 is estimated at 147.2 bushels per acre. This is up 0.5 bushel from the November forecast but 5.6 bushels below the 2010 average yield of 152.8 bushels. Area harvested for grain is estimated at 84.0 million acres, up slightly from the November forecast and up 3 percent from 2010.

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