January 04, 2012

Nebraska’s White Corn, GMO’s

Crops

Surely, those tortilla chip lovers out there know that Nebraska is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for production of white corn? Nebraska’s production of white corn is around 27 million bushels, with the five-year average of planted acres being 145,127 acres. 


This past fall, the U.S. Grains Council  brought up a trade team from Mexico and the Nebraska Corn Board hosted them to tour two cooperatives and a private grain company, all of which supply white corn to buyers in different U.S. markets by contracting white corn production with Nebraskan farmers. The trade team guests came to Nebraska to explore white corn production and contracting opportunities


Mexico also grows a lot of its own white corn. What is most interesting for Mexico is that they have two cycles of harvest; defined by an Autumn-Winter season and a Spring-Summer season. Unfortunately, Mexico had a rare freeze earlier this year that killed a lot of corn during mid-season growth. Much was replanted, but still left corn stocks short. Thus, the purpose for the trip to the U.S. was to gain a long-term relationship with white corn growers and suppliers to have resources for the future. South Africa is another large white corn market for Mexican buyers, and even though it is cheaper to buy, the shipment and other fees cause it to cost about the same as U.S. corn.

On our family farm, we grow a lot of white and yellow corn on our farm in South Central Nebraska. All of the corn on our farm is genetically modified organisms (GM) and in Nebraska, 91% of the corn (both white and yellow) is GM corn. GM simply means that a gene from one corn seed is purposely moved to improve or change another gene in a laboratory. This is also sometimes called “transgenic” for transfer of genes. There is a good explanation here.  GM corn has a natural resistance to insects and efficiency to make it a better quality – which then makes better, more consistent food. This is certainly not a new idea and is even used in organic farming. These genetic improvements have increased the white corn yields, contributing to higher production levels – which means we are growing more with fewer resources!


The white corn that I grow on our farm is a food-grade quality. Since we’re going to eat it, in corn chips, tortillas or other foods, it needs to be the best quality. It is a little more difficult to grow white corn because it requires special isolation from the yellow corn and soybeans we grow. 

Check out my twitter, @MarkJagels, for some pictures of planting and harvesting white corn. You might even find a picture with my farming buddy!

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