What can be done to help farmers address risks associated with highly variable and unpredictable weather and long term changing climate conditions? How can the sustainability and resilience of corn-based cropping systems be increased? These are the questions being discussed in Ames, Iowa, today at a conference for Corn Belt farmers and crop advisers, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sustainable Corn Project and the 25x’25 Alliance.
Corn is the major cereal crop of U.S. agriculture. Eighty-eight million acres were planted in 2013 producing the highest ever total crop at 13.9 billion bushels and valued at $63 billion. Seventy to eighty percent of corn production occurs in the upper Midwest. In 2013, soybean, part of the corn rotation, was planted on 76 million acres with a total production at 3.3 billion bushels and valued at $41 billion.
“When it comes to corn-based cropping systems, creating a resilient response to excess rainfall, droughts and an increasingly highly variable climate is critical, if we are to sustain yields and protect soil and water resources,” said Lois Wright Morton, the Project’s director and a social scientist at Iowa State University. The Sustainable Corn Project is a USDA-funded project, with scientists at 10 land-grant universities and one agricultural research station gathering data from 35 field sites and thousands of farmers in nine Midwestern states.
At the conference, Sustainable Corn Project scientists will share their research findings and a panel of farmers from four different states in the Midwest will talk about what they have done on their farms to build resiliency into their operations. Farmers and others also will participate in hands-on activities in the field to increase their understanding of the practices being researched and to learn how to use new decision support tools.