Corn Belt Will Still Be Best Place to Grow Corn

Climate change could make meeting food challenge even harder.

Published on: Feb 11, 2013

Otto Doering from Purdue University is an ag economist, but he's spent part of his time the past 10 years working on group projects related to climate change. He's convinced that rising carbon dioxide levels are real, and that the greenhouse gas effect is real. He's also convinced that there are things that farmers might do about it, and things they can't.

No one is going to turn the clock back and farm without technology or products of the industrial revolution, he says. Instead, what farmers may need to do is factor climate and weather aspects into day-to-day decisions, such as when to plant a hybrid to time out pollination right, or when to apply fertilizer. In fact a project is underway to help farmers find this type of information.

Better crops this year? Otto Doering says last year was an anomaly, even if you believe in the greenhouse gas theory that says the earth is warming over time.
Better crops this year? Otto Doering says last year was an anomaly, even if you believe in the greenhouse gas theory that says the earth is warming over time.

Some who have supported the greenhouse theory have said the Corn Belt would move into the Great Lakes and Canada, and the current Corn Belt states would be growing something else. Doering disagrees. He believes the best place to grow corn will still be in the Corn Belt. It may be tougher to grow as much corn as you do now until advances and adaptations come along, but the Corn Belt will still have an advantage over any other place where corn is grown.

The only exception might be if you're in the far western part of the Corn Belt, he says. Water will factor into the equation there. Farmers may be forced to decide between growing corn or some other crop, like wheat or grain sorghum, strictly due to water restraints and a lack of water which could develop over time.

Relax, he's not predicting another summer like last summer. He even says the drought was likely not caused by global warming, at least not the severity of it. He does suggest, however, that weather extremes will become more likely. That's why a service that can size up the probability of certain things happening within a season based on history, climate information and current conditions could be useful. The service wouldn't make any decisions. It would simply provide the farmer with information, and the probability of various outcomes, and let the farmer decide.