Rising US maize yields due to skewed gains

Rising yields in the US Corn Belt are probably due to the adoption of precision agriculture and disproportionate gains on better soils, a newly developed satellite analysis has shown.

The analysis quantified yield heterogeneity both within and between fields for maize and soybean in the US Midwest. It revealed that heterogeneity in maize yields is rising, with average yield differences between the best and worst soils more than doubling since the turn of the century.

That is both good and bad news, according to David Lobell of Stanford University, US. “It’s good that yields have kept rising, and it’s good that farmers are adopting precision agriculture,” he said. “But there are potential problems with relying on a narrowing base of land for gains, just like in the economy there is a problem of relying on growth only [in the] top income brackets. Generally speaking, broad-based growth is more stable and sustainable.” […]

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