Corn has become the most abundant commodity grain grown in the United States by far with more than 15 billion bushels produced in 2016. Growing corn when prices were at $6-$7 per bushel made it a clear economic choice by providing significant returns over other crops. With the days of high dollar corn in the rear view mirror for the foreseeable future why is growing corn still so popular? Because we’re good at it and I for one love everything that comes with growing and harvesting corn.
The U.S. farmer has become so good at growing corn; we produced over 174 bushels per acre last year. The entire American agricultural system has evolved to assist with and encourage the production of more and more corn. Research in seed genetics, fertilizer production, and the ability to produce a seemingly endless amount of products from corn has pushed U.S. production to unprecedented levels. With an army of agronomists, seed geneticists, fertilizer producers, herbicide selections, and specialized equipment, growing high yielding corn is not nearly as difficult as it once was, say 40 years ago. I planted my first field of corn 7 years ago, and I was a true rookie to the practice. I relied on a significant amount of reading and research to guide myself through what I considered to be something only a near genius could accomplish. What I found out was quite the opposite; growing corn is easy. With all the before mentioned help from industry experts and professionals growing a decent corn crop more or less comes down to mother nature and if she will provide timely rains and adequate growing conditions. Most variables, excluding the weather, can be partially or completely controlled by the grower. Hybrid selection, fertilizer, and weed control are just a few elements a corn producer can control.
I love to grow and harvest corn. Harvesting corn is my favorite thing to do on the farm, along with everyone else who comes to visit. No one ever wants to ride along while spraying, planting, or even combining soybeans or small grain, but as soon as that corn head is on the combine people are lined up at the edge of the field waiting for a ride. Harvesting 200+ bushel corn is quite an experience, sure there is a lot more volume of crop to manage but the more truckloads of corn that leave the field means more dollars in the pocket. “It’s a good problem to have” is how we describe it. You will rarely hear someone bragging about soybean or wheat yields; mainly corn gets all the glory at the coffee shop. “Did you hear so and so got 220 bushel corn” will provide a much more enthusiastic conversation than “did you hear so and so got 50 bushel beans.” When was the last time you heard any country music song that mentioned soybeans? Maybe such as song exists but I have not had the pleasure of listening to it. Corn is somewhat synonymous with country music, perhaps through the nostalgia of the small family farm that almost certainly grew at least some corn. Turn on any country station and you’re sure to hear some mention of corn sooner or later.
These are only two of the reasons why corn is king. We are very good at producing it in incredible quantities and regardless of the political tensions that surround it, for me corn is just an enjoyable crop to grow.
The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.