Visual illustration of increased productivity of corn production in U.S.

Bushels of corn produced on 1 acre of land has increased from about 26 in 1939 to 165 in 2009.  Productivity has dropped in 2010.

A graph is better than the raw numbers.

Mark Perry, of Carpe Diem has the picture at U.S. Corn Yields Have Increased Six Times Since the 1930s and Are Estimated to Double By 2030.

Primary reason?

After remaining flat between 1866 and 1939 at about 26 bushels per acre, corn yields started increasing dramatically in the 1940s due to the introduction of hybrid seeds, and the widespread use of nitrogen fertilizers and herbicides.

The potential improvements in the next decade or two are more staggering:

…plant breeding experts estimate yields may jump 40 percent before 2020 and, perhaps, hit a national average of 300 bushels per acre by 2030

Here’s the comparison to average productivity in 1931:

  • Productivity of raising corn today is 6 times higher than 1931
  • In 2020, productivity could be 9 times higher than 1931.
  • In 2030, productivity could be 12.5 times higher than 1931.

That sort of productivity gain is the reason our standard of living has increased so dramatically since WWII and especially compared to 100 years ago.

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