Corn beat soybeans in several categories when it comes to the 2013 harvest. Corn profits have been higher than soybeans in recent years. Corn seems to be the darling of politicians who have subsidized the grain through the years.
But the most interesting and mysterious gap between the crops is in the area of yield. For some reason corn yields are increasing more quickly than soybeans. The advantages have made corn the nation’s most popular crop.
That was demonstrated again this year as final numbers for the 2013 harvest from the U.S. Agriculture Department released today show that the nation’s farmers produced their largest corn crop ever — nearly 14 billion bushels of the grain planted on about 88 million acres.
The soybean harvest was about 3.3 billion bushels, planted on 76 million acres. Minnesota farmers brought in about 1.3 billion bushels of corn and around 271 million bushels of soybeans.
The productivity side of the two crops shows a big advantage for corn especially if you track the numbers over time.
Twenty years ago, 1994 totals show both corn and soybean yields in Minnesota were records. The average corn yield was 142 bushels an acre. Soybeans were at 40 bushels an acre.
Since then the corn yield has climbed to as high as a record 177 bushels an acre in 2010. That’s about a 25 percent increase over 1994. The soybean increase though has been only half that. The current record soybean yield in Minnesota is 45 bushels an acre, in 2005 and again in 2010. That’s only a 12.5 percent increase since 1994.
Crop researchers speculate there are several reasons for the corn – soybean yield gap. Farmers may tend to pay more attention to their most profitable crop: corn. That could mean soybeans wait in line behind corn, for things like most favorable planting date or disease inspection and treatment in the summer. Both can affect yield.
Some scientists believe crop breeders have been able to improve corn seed more quickly than the soybean, in areas like drought tolerance and insect resistance. Another possibility is that nature has dealt the soybean a more complex field of enemies. Yield-cutters like disease, fungus, and insects tend to affect soybeans more often than corn.