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Published February 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

Corn industry sees changes

Interest in crop continues to grow among North Dakota farmers
This is not your grandfather’s – or even your father’s – corn field.

This is not your grandfather’s – or even your father’s – corn field.

“Your world is different than granddad’s. We’ve changed the game,” agronomist John McGillicuddy said Wednesday in Fargo.

Increasingly high-tech production practices, rising yield expectations and changing weather patterns have drastically altered how corn is grown, he said.

McGillicuddy, with McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics in Iowa City, Iowa, spoke to about 250 people at the North Dakota Corn Growers Association’s annual convention.

As an agronomist, McGillicuddy works to improve the process of growing crops.

He urged farmers to pay particular attention to their corn fields when the crop is just beginning to develop.

Once yield potential is lost, it can never be regained, he said.

“The hits you take early are bigger hits,” McGillicuddy said.

Recent cool, wet weather – as opposed to warmer, drier conditions once common in the region – further affects how corn is grown, he said.

North Dakota ranks 12th nationally in corn production, Minnesota fourth.

North Dakota’s corn acreage has shot higher in recent years, in large part due to new varieties.

State farmers last year planted 1.95 million acres of corn, up from 880,000 acres in 2001, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.

The coming spring will be particularly important to area corn farmers.

Not only will they need to plant their 2010 crop, many must finish harvesting the 2009 crop. Wet fields and December snows stopped corn farmers from completing harvest last year.

As of Jan. 31, 27 percent of North Dakota’s 2009 corn crop wasn’t harvested, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an agency of USDA.

“There’s concern about that,” said Tom Lilja, executive director of the state Corn Growers Association.

Farmers trying to harvest last year’s crop and plant a new one shouldn’t expect much help from late-spring weather, said Leon Osborne, president of Meridian Environmental Technology in Grand Forks.

Osborne, a faculty member of the University of North Dakota Department of Atmospheric Sciences, spoke at the convention.

Above-normal precipitation in May – when much of the area’s corn is planted – is likely, he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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