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Title: Agriculture in the U.S. Corn Belt: Past, Present, and Future

item Karlen, Douglas
item Singer, Jeremy

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/8/2007
Publication Date: 11/8/2007
Citation: Karlen, D.L., Singer, J.W., Gibson, L.R. 2007. Agriculture in the U.S. Corn Belt: Past, Present, and Future [CD-ROM]. In: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts, Nov. 4-8, 2007, New Orleans, LA.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: During the past 50 years, agriculture in the U.S. Corn Belt has changed from diversified farms that included forage, grain, and livestock operations to larger management units that separated grain and animal production. Swine (Sus scrofa L.), chicken (Gallus Domesticus), turkey (Meleagris gallopava) and cattle (Bos taurus) operations have been consolidated to achieve an industrial model of increased efficiency throughout the region. Land devoted to corn (Zea mays) and soybean [Glycine max. (Merr.)] has increased, while the area devoted to hay (grass and legume species), barley (Hordeum spp.), oat (Avena sativa L.), and wheat (Triticum spp.) has decreased. These agricultural system changes have reduced the portion of the year that soils are covered with living, transpiring plants and thus affected both the hydrology and soil resources. Increased drainage, N fertilization for corn, and higher rates of manure application near CAFOs have been driven by public and private research and development efforts, increased world demand for food, feed, and fiber, and government policies. The changes have often been justified using short-term economic measures, but community, natural resource (soil, water, and air), and social impacts of such change are often long-term and are just being recognized. As we begin the 21st century, the U.S. Corn Belt faces another change as bio-energy and the bio-economy begins to develop. The initial steps in this new era have been made with many people assuming these new changes can simply be layered upon those from the past (i.e., simply increase corn and soybean yield). Our goal is to explore whether this approach is realistic or if both rural and urban constituents would fare better by adopting a new model that emphasizes conservation and landscape management rather than an agricultural production model buoyed up by government payments for increased yield.