Corn Production & Uses

Corn production has increased significantly over the years – from 26 bushels per acre produced in Nebraska in the 1900s to 178 bushels per acre produced in 2009. The ability of farmers to produce more corn from the same acre allows corn to be used in many new ways – from ethanol to bioplastics – while satisfying traditional feed and export markets.

Corn production has increased significantly over the years – from 26 bushels per acre produced in Nebraska in the 1900s to 178 bushels per acre produced in 2009. Farmers' ability to produce more corn from the same acre allows corn to be used in new ways – from ethanol to bioplastics – while satisfying traditional feed and export markets.

Corn production in terms of bushels produced by acre have increased dramatically over the years – growing from 26 bushels per acre produced in in Nebraska in the 1900s to the 166 bushels per acre produced in the state in 2010. In just the last decade, corn yields in Nebraska increased 41%.

Nationally, the numbers are similar, with corn yields across the country averaging some 165 bushels per acre in 2009, up 20 percent from the previous decade – and resulting in a record 13.1 billion-bushel crop.

This incredible run-up in production – with farmers producing more corn from the same acre – allows corn to be used in many new ways. Food usage in terms of sweet corn remains quite small, less than 1% of acres produce sweet corn. Traditional markets like livestock and poultry feed remain steady, using corn and corn co-products like distillers grains, which come from corn ethanol plants. Corn exports around the world have also remained steady through the years.

Yet corn production continued to grow.

This freed up corn to be used in a myriad of ways. Corn starch alone has dozens of uses, from being a thickening agent to helping frozen foods maintain their texture. Roasted starch – dextrins – are found in adhesive applications. Citric and lactic acid produced from corn in hundreds other products. (For more on the many uses of corn, go to http://worldofcorn.com/category/ncga-article-categories/media-center/publications-0.)

Another important use for corn that expanded rapidly over the last decade is ethanol. To make this clean-burning, renewable fuel, corn starch is converted to sugar and fermented. The rest of the kernel then comes back as feed for livestock and poultry – meaning from every bushel you get fuel and feed. It’s quite an opportunity, as ethanol production provides good jobs in mostly rural communities, provides a new market for the growing supply of corn and allows us to diversify our fuel supply and start us down the path to energy independence. For more, click here.

The chart below shows Nebraska’s corn yield and production trend over time. For details going back to 1900 and a breakdown by county, click here.