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Frequent Contributor

The future of corn and soybean yields

Where are corn and soybean yields headed in next 15-20 years? Any thoughts on what the next big yield boost will come from, or what might be limiting factors? 



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Senior Contributor

Re: The future of corn and soybean yields

I see a lot of opportunity for improved water management. Guessing average yields could be boosted by 25% if we could drain and capture our excess runoff for use during the inevitable dry periods. Pattern tiling with outlet controls looks to be a baby step in that direction.


The other big area is probably yield genetics. Back when gene splicing was first geting started I saw an experiment where rat growth genetics were inserted into mice embrios resulting in rat sized mice. Seems likely that sooner or later the grain gene splicer's will come up with some way to significantly boost yields with their magic tricks.

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Re: The future of corn and soybean yields

Are increased yields the main objective?

Increasing yields will benefit those with the soil and the capitol to invest to attain them.  It would be my guess that most of the areas in the world well suited to corn and soybean production are growing them.  How much benefit is there to increasing yields in those areas?

On the other hand, being able to grow corn and soybeans on more soils and in more climates might expand overall yield as much or more.  That would mean more emphasis on growing in drier or wetter or warmer or cooler areas than we now think of as ideal.  A number of companies are working on drought resistant corn, as one example.  Being able to double corp may be another venue.

Genetics has some potential.  But is the upside going to be from bigger ears per plant or more ears per plant or will it be the ability to crowd more plants per acre - shorter plants that have enough leaf area to be a corn factory but no more stalk area than necessary to hyold the leaves?

Holding up the water table is a good option if your ground is 1% or 0.5% slope, according to Prof. Matt Helmers of ISU when I asked him about that at the Farm Progress Show in Boone on Tuesday.  More slope than that and it gets very expensive as you need a new gate for every foot of fall.  Complicated, too, maybe.

Changing corn to an evenly spaced crop would require major equipment and maybe management changes that some will resist or drag their feet on.

It is conceivable but unlikely that we will end up with corn suited for big operations with a lot of specialized equipment and corn for conventional current operations.  I doubt it but it's possible.

My guess is that yield increases will be from tweaking all the factors.  Some genetics.  Some cropping practices.  Some management.  Some inputs.  Some precision ag.  Many small things that individually may be difficult to isolate as definitive.  Just like arguments about row spacing now.  Maybe it will be more and more specific to the soil type, climate, sunlight, moisture and you name it so that some yield increases will be from improved management in a precision ag setting.



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Frequent Contributor

Re: The future of corn and soybean yields

I am an agronomist here in the UK.


I can safely say it will be a much easier task raising your yields over there in the US than it would be too eek any more from our cropping over here.


That said, yields over here of all crops have not really altered much in the last 30 years.

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