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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 2005-2007
FALL 2007 Fluid Journal 9 SUMMARY Summary: The development and expansion of the biofuels industry may well mark the end of an era in agriculture, an era that began in the 1980s with LISA (Low Input Sustainable Agriculture) and the publication of "Alternative Agriculture" by the National Research Council (1989). It was an era dominated by the mindset that production was the problem and input reduction was the solution. Perhaps biofuels and the array of co-product opportunities that are appearing along with it offer a new mindset where sustainable development of the real potential of modern agriculture to harness the sun's energy in meeting food, feed, fiber, and fuel needs becomes the focus. Such a mindset is ripe with opportunity for the fertilizer industry provided the steps taken are not only good business moves but also are grounded in science-based sustainable practices leading to efficient and effective nutrient management and resource use. prices for the next three years are in the range of $3.17 to $3.63/bu. Such a price jump across the 11 billion bushel U.S. corn crop translates into an additional $11 billion in gross revenue to corn producers. The impact of higher corn prices will be far-reaching and likely include: more corn acres and fewer acres of other crops; changes in government farm programs; a shift in attitudes and management emphasis; livestock industry shifts in feeding, revenues, and perhaps geography; transportation challenges; and input industry implications, including those for the fertilizer industry. Yield increase Increased demand for corn can be met either by increasing acres or increasing production per acre. Higher prices provide incentives for both. Figure 1 shows what a 3 percent annual rate of increase looks like projected out to 2020 and contains a table translating the yield increases into additional production. The N, P, and K contained in the additional annual production in 2020 amounts to 18, 21, and 13 percent, respectively, of the entire current U.S. fertilizer use (average of 2004-2006). If the genetics industry can deliver on the promised increased genetic potential, and if agronomic researchers, educators, crop advisers, and growers can convert that genetic potential into bushels in the bin, we will indeed be in the midst of a revolution not experienced since the hybridization of corn. It will be critical for sustainability of the resulting modified system that the changes contribute positively to environmental impacts, namely y = 1.829x - 3522 r2 = 0.84 0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 1960 1965 1970 1975 19801985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 Corn yield, bu/A 3%/yr Additional ann. prod. billion bu 15 Equiv. acres at 2006 yd million 7 33 2010 2020 43 years of 1.8 bu/A/yr that nitrate and phosphate losses to surface and ground water are reduced; soil erosion and soil loss from the field are lessened; nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions to the atmosphere are reduced; carbon is sequestered in the soil or at least maintained; and water is used appropriately. Cor n acreage increase A substantial increase in corn acreage has occurred in 2007 and about a 15 percent increase over the 2004 to 2006 acreage is being estimated by the USDA. Much of the increase has occurred in the traditional corn-soybean rotation regions of the Corn Belt, resulting in an increase in corn on corn acres. Figure 1. Genetic improvement in corn yields promised by the biotech industry.
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