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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


'Corn University' to Examine Possibility of 300 Bushel Corn

January 25, 2011

ADA, Ohio -- In 1992, Ohio's corn crop achieved a record yield of 143 bushels per acre. Since then, genetic improvements have led to even higher yields, with the state's 2010 crop averaging a very respectable 163 bushels per acre. Now, the buzz across the nation's Corn Belt is that a remarkable 300 bushels per acre is possible by the year 2030.

Is such a feat achievable? Ohio State University Extension specialist Peter Thomison will explore the idea during a capstone presentation, "300 bushels/acre by 2030: A certainty? A possibility? Or science fiction?" at Corn University, part of the 2011 Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, Feb. 24-25 in Ada, Ohio.

Corn University is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, and will include presentations by specialists from Purdue University, the University of Illinois and the University of Kentucky. Thomison's session will be followed by a panel discussion to wrap up the day.

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference will be held at the McIntosh Center of Ohio Northern University. Early registration (before Feb. 15) is $50 for one day or $70 for both days. More information and registration materials are available at

Thomison himself is interested in hearing what his colleagues from neighboring states will say on the topic, he said. They will be offering different perspectives, from what factors limit and promote corn yield, to how the corn plant's metabolism responds to different cultural practices, to managing high yields in no-till environments.

Continued improvements in plant genetics -- and, of course, ideal weather conditions -- will be the driving force behind achieving 300 bushel per acre corn, Thomison said.

"Looking at the long-term trendline, going all the way back to when hybrids were first introduced in the 1930s, we're looking at trendlines showing yields increasing by about 1.6 bushels per acre per year in Ohio," he said. But beginning in 1996 when transgenics were first widely planted, yields began to increase by three bushels per acre per year in some states. Already, some Ohio farmers are achieving yields of 200 to 250 bushels per acre on their best fields, Thomison said.

That bodes well for the future, particularly if yields continue to increase at three or more bushels per acre a year, he said. It's important to keep in mind, though, that yield trendlines can vary considerably depending on the time interval selected, so trendlines based on a limited number of years are less reliable in projecting yields than those based over longer periods of time.

"If we look at the yields in those fields where we have growers who are achieving 250 bushels right now, and we look at the three-bushel per acre per year trendline, we can get to 300 bushels by 2030, because we're already at an elevated level of yields -- almost 100 bushels over the state average. And if we're looking at six bushels per acre per year, then well, we have no problem. But even with 3 bushels per acre per year, we're going to get to 300 bushels on many Ohio fields, and that's what I think is mind-boggling.

"Now, if we go back to a 1.6 increase in bushels per acre per year -- the current long-term rate -- that's another story."

Thomison said the discussion between specialists from different universities and different states and the ability to interact with growers and crop advisers with a wide range of experience makes Corn University a prime opportunity for exploring and exchanging new ideas. The event has been part of the CTC for three years. 

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference is the largest, most comprehensive program of conservation tillage techniques in the Midwest. Last year, it attracted 966 participants. About 60 presenters (farmers, industry professionals, and university specialists) from around the country focus on cost-saving, production management topics. The conference is broken down into tracks covering soil and water; nutrient and manure management; advanced scouting techniques; cover crops; crop management; and planters and precision agriculture.

Sponsors of the conference include OSU Extension, OARDC, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, and the Ohio No-Till Council.

Martha Filipic
Peter Thomison