Putting DNA to Work

Increasing Productivity in Corn

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The goal of plant breeding, scientific crop selection, and modern genetic research is to increase crop yields and improve the quality of the food, feed, and fibers produced. Modern crops are dramatically more productive than wild plants, as the diagram demonstrates.

Map of U.S. showing corn and Teosinte acreage Acreage Required to Match Today's U.S. Corn Production

Today: Total U.S. corn production in 2002, excluding feed corn, was about 252 million tons from 69.3 million acres, which is 3.6 tons or 130 bushels per acre. This represents around 4% of the land area of the lower 48 states.


Teosinte: Modern experiments growing teosinte produced 0.28 tons per acre, so matching today's corn production would require 12.9 times the current acreage, or a total of 891 million acres. This represents around 47% of the land area of the lower 48 states.

Corn is just one example of advances in productivity for many crops.

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Reading Traits in the Corn Genome [ next ]