♫ Corn Is Busting Out All Over ♫ (Update on Global Warming and the Death of Corn)

by Marlo Lewis on May 15, 2012

in Features

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About a year ago on this blog, I offered some skeptical commentary about the gloomy testimony of Dr. Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who warned the House Energy & Commerce Committee that global warming would inflict major losses on U.S. corn crop production unless scientists develop varieties with improved heat resistence.

I noted that long-term U.S. corn production was increasing, including in areas where average summer temperatures exceed 84°F, the threshold beyond which corn yields fall, according to Field.

Well, this just in, courtesy of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA): USDA projects the U.S. corn crop for 2012 to reach 14.79 billion bushels, the biggest ever. RFA’s objective, of course, is not to debunk climate alarm, but to assure us that we can have our corn (ethanol) and eat it too. Nonetheless, the numbers are mighty impressive and indicate that, in this decade at least, U.S. corn farmers are more than a match for climate change. From RFA’s briefing memo:

At 14.79 billion bushels, the 2012 corn crop would:

  • be a record crop by far, beating the 2009 crop of 13.09 billion bushels by 11%.
  • be 65% larger than the crop from 10 years ago (8.97 billion bushels in 2002).
  • be more than twice as large as the average-sized annual corn crop in the decade of the 1980s (7.15 billion bushels on average).

The 2012 projected yield of 166 bushels per acre would:

  • be a record yield, beating out the 2009 average yield of 164.7 bushels per acre.
  • be only the third time in history yields have topped 160 bu/acre, the others being 2009 (164.7) and 2004 (160.4).
  • be 35% higher than the average yield from the 1990s and 12% higher than the average yield since 2000.
James Thurber May 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Here’s what the RFA didn’t tell you. Intensive corn cultivation requires the extensive use of nitrogen fertilizer, which results in the release of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 time more potent than CO2, into the atmosphere. In addition, it results in the contamination of aquifers and rivers with nitrates, which ultimately contribute to the expansion of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. In other words, displacing fossil fuel consumption with corn ethanol results in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other environmental damage.

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