Friday, October 20, 2006

How Long Can We Sustain Yield Increases?

Science Daily reported interesting findings from the University of Wisconsin-Madison regarding ealier crop plantings and future yields. Corn yields have increased precipitously over the past couple of decades. In the fifties, corn yields were something around seventy to eighty bushels an acre. As of 2003, average corn yields jumped to 142.2 bushels per acre. (Yield statistics from the Purdue University Department of Agronomy).

Lots of factors have contributed to the staggering increase, including earlier crop plantings. The U-Madison scientists warn, though, that farmers can't expect increasing yield attributable to earlier planting to continue indefinitely. Christopher Kucharik (terrestrial ecologist) warns that you can fool Mother Nature only so long, and suggests that there is a risk to getting a plant too out of sync with the seasonal climate it is accustomed to. Another interesting aspect of the study is that global warming, according to Kucharik, has less to do with the earlier planting than factors such as improved land management practices and advances in biotechnology.

The full article is available on-line via the Agronomy Journal.


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