U.S. farmers have long been a productive bunch, recording advances year after year—producing increasingly more with fewer resources. That has again been confirmed by USDA and Fertilizer Institute data, corn farmers have cut the usage of key fertilizers by roughly 33 percent per bushel in the last 30 years.
Between 1978 and 2010, phosphorus use on cropland decreased by 43.3 percent per bushel with potash and nitrogen use decreasing by 38.6 and 31.5 percent per bushel respectively. The data is based on three-year averages and was collected by USDA, and highlights the efficiency gains farmers have had during that period.
"Farmers truly were the first environmentalists," says Steve Ebke, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s production and stewardship action team. "The multi-generational nature of our operations constantly reminds us of why we want to improve both farming practices and our land. By reducing fertilizer usage per bushel, we save valuable resources, decrease our environmental impact and produce our crop more affordably. It is a true win/win situation for farmers and consumers."
Over the same period, the overall amount of fertilizer use did decline despite consistently increased production. On a per-acre basis, during the 32-year period, phosphorus use decreased by 11.8 percent with 6.9 and 2.6 percent reductions in the use of nitrogen and potash respectively. Over the same span, average corn yields increased from roughly 95 bushels to 155 bushels per acre.
"U.S. corn is a sustainable, reliable, affordable source of food, feed, fuel and fiber," Ebke says. "Every year, we are improving our production techniques, increasing efficiencies and decreasing outputs while growing a crop that meets constantly increasing demand."