Corn production: Trends & practices


Tony Nye - OSU Extension



“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows.

“These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” – Wendell Berry.

I didn’t know who Berry was without looking him up, but I think he makes a lot of since. Farmers truly are stewards of all the above.

In today’s, agriculture, farmers must not only concern themselves with production, they must be concerned with soil heath as well as conservation, water quality, the environment, technology, efficiencies, disease and insects, world affairs and their impact on U.S agriculture … and much more.

Recently in the OSU Online Crop Observation and Recommendation Network (better known as C.O.R.N.) newsletter, Chris Zoller, OSU Extension Educator from Tuscarawas County, highlighted a July 2021 report Trends in Production Practices and Costs of the U.S. Corn Sector, by the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS).

This report examines some of those items (concerns) I just mentioned above. Within the report, researchers examined acreage, production, technology changes, input costs, farm structure, and productivity changes.

The study used information from USDA Economic Research Service and USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Agricultural Resource Management Survey for the years 1996, 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2016. Data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture for the years 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017 was also used for this survey.

Because of space limitations, not all data from the 35-page report will be shared here at this time but more information from this report will be highlighted in the coming weeks. The complete report is available at: https://bit.ly/3yGwtAp .

Here are some highlights:

• More than 88 million acres of corn were planted in 2018, representing an 11 percent increase over the 79 million planted in 1996.

• USDA-ERS has 11 Farm Resource Regions across the U.S. (see figure below). Total net returns across all regions varied during the analysis period, with 2010 being the highest net return year and 2005 the lowest.

• Genetically engineered seed became available in 1996 and corn producers have steadily increased the use of insect resistant and herbicide tolerant varieties.

• In 2001, yield monitors were used by 19% of growers and yield maps were used by six percent of growers. In 2016, the numbers increased to 52% using yield monitors and 31% using yield maps.

• Irrigated corn acres declined across the U.S. during the study period.

• The Heartland Region had the highest yield of all regions and increased production per acre from 138 in 1996 to 197 in 2016. The Southern Seaboard Region had the lowest yield (113 bushels per acre) across all years.

• As the number of acres increased, cost per bushel decreased. Economies of size appeared to level out between 750 and 1,500 acres. Because 58 percent of the corn acreage is on farms less than 750 acres, there may be opportunities for growers to capitalize on economies of size.

• In 2016, the most productive growers achieved yields of 202 bushels per acre. This was more than 50 percent higher than yields of low-productivity growers.

Local workshop

Another trend I hear farmers becoming more interested in is the uses of native warm season grasses. An upcoming workshop — Use of Grazing Native Warm Season Grasses, hosted by Clinton and Adam County SWCD — will be held August 31at the J&N Rice Farms, 1212 Second Creek Road, Blanchester.

Join the Clinton County SWCD and Adams County SWCD along with many other sponsors and speakers to learn best management practices for establishing and grazing native grasses. Also learn how native grasses can be implemented into a grazing system to maintain grass vigor and animal performance through the summer months.

There is no fee to attend but pre-registration is required. Dinner will be provided to pre-registrants. For registration and questions, contact Clinton SWCD at 937-382-2461, ext. 3 by Friday, August 20.

Corn, Field Day Tuesday

Remember to attend the SW Ohio Corn Growers and OSU Extension Field Day next Tuesday, August 17. This day long event will have lots of great information, presentations and industry exhibits. The event is free and lunch will be served to attendees.

Highlights include: Dow AgroSciences, LLC discussion on Agronomic Crop Genetics and Crop Protection; a discussion and demonstration of a 360 Yield – Dash Corn Plot; “Boots on the Ground” soybean research, diseases and insects discussion; Water Quality and Edge of Field research; a live demonstration of a spraying drone from the Rantizo Company; and an afternoon Cover Crop event.

Additionally, representatives from the National and Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers will give updates on state and national activities the organization has been monitoring and participating in.

Recycling Day

Finally, don’t forget the Pesticide Container Recycling Day, Thursday, August 19 at Nutrien Ag Solutions, 6704 E. US Highway 22 & 3, Wilmington (Melvin location) from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

For more information, contact the Clinton County Extension Office at 937-382-0901.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

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Tony Nye

OSU Extension