Stewardship + Biotechnology

What goes into corn production 

Sustainability + Biotechnology South Dakota corn growers are environmentalists by nature. And we use resources and resourcefulness to boost yields with eco-efficiency. Because every producer knows: It isn’t just about growing more corn. It’s about finding the middle ground between sustainability and productivity.

Our industry is evolving. And with it, the management practices and technologies growers use to maintain the productivity and environmental health of the land.

Soil management
Conservation tillage practices like no-till, low-till, ridge-till and minimum till cut erosion and improve organic composition of the soil. These methods are not only environmentally sensible, but economical, too. National Corn Growers Association also tells us that by using conservation tillage practices, growers can 

  • Reduce soil loss by more than 90 percent and rainfall runoff by 60 percent (Purdue)
  • Use 27 percent less water by increasing water movement and moisture retention in the soil
  • Save 2–3.5 gallons of diesel fuel (compared to conventional tillage practices) per acre (USDA/NCRS)
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 44–77 pounds per acre (EIA)
  • And save on input costs for labor, pesticides, nutrients and machinery 

Pest management 
Insecticides, fungicides and herbicides make modern, efficient agriculture possible. New products are less toxic and degrade much faster than those in use 20 years ago. And thanks to regulated use at strict tolerance levels, the US Geological Survey reports that our nation’s streams and ground water hold concentrations far below government standards and quality protection guidelines.

Growers are also using integrated pest management (IPM) practices to reduce production costs and the harmful effects of traditional pest control. IPM practices use prevention, avoidance, monitoring devices, and various biological and cultural controls to suppress damaging pressures and help improve the environment. 

A grower’s ability to do more with less starts with high-performance seed corn. Science has produced corn seeds genetically enhanced to resist weed, insect and disease pressures and reduce pesticide use. Biotech corn absorbs costly nutrients more readily, helping growers get more from a pound of fertilizer than ever before. And new drought-resistance hybrids are in the works. 

Production technology 
Drive down any rural South Dakota road, and you’ll see the latest in efficient agricultural practices at work in the fields. And growers are using sophisticated methods and advanced technology like 

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for precise, spatial reference of field characteristics
  • Mapping software—or Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—for analysis and display of collected data
  • And machines equipped with Variable Rate Technology (VRT) to control input application rates according to location in the field 

And what we get out of it 

In 2008, South Dakota corn growers saw a 343 percent increase in total harvest and a 141 percent increase in yield per acre over numbers reported just a generation ago. USDA's crop production summary for 2009 brings even better news. And growers are doing it all with practices that maintain the quality and productivity of land and water by supporting the natural composition, structure and function of an entire ecosystem.