By Brandon Hunnicutt
Over the last 15 years, agriculture has been changing technologically at an amazing pace. It is something that is truly fun to look back at and realize where we have come. As a producer of corn, soybeans, wheat, seed corn, and popcorn over many of those years it has truly changed what we are able to do and what we will be able to do in the future.
Equipment technology has created a way for us to be able to be better stewards of our ground and resources. Biotechnology has allowed us to push the food, feed, and fuel production to levels that only a few short years ago, many people would not have thought possible. Plus, we are utilizing fertilizer at a better rate. We are reducing our need for irrigation, in irrigated crop production. We are using fewer and fewer pesticides, which not only allows for a healthier product but also for cleaner natural resources like streams and drinking water.
For the farmer, this new wave of biotechnology, has allowed him to plant sooner and get over more acres faster. It also allows for a crop that can remain in the field in good condition longer. It is also allowing for new “green” technologies to come along with the feedstocks from the field being used for future cellulosic ethanol production and for helping coal fired electric plants to create a cleaner energy as well. All this is possible because of the healthy plants that biotechnology is allowing us to have. A plant that can protect itself, will be stronger then the plant that isn’t. Whether that protection is from in field pests or whether that is from the plant being able to be resistant to certain herbicides, it all helps in the final standability and yieldability of the crop that is planted.
Farmers love to plant biotech corn and soybeans. According to the USDA June 2009 Acreage report, US farmers planted 85% of their corn to biotech hybrids which was up from 80% in 2008. They also planted 91% of their soybean acres to biotech which was down 1% from 2008. Farmers have seen the value of these crops and are willing to plant them.
This doesn’t mean there doesn’t need to be more work done. Seed companies are going to have to realize that even though farmers are willing to plant biotech hybrids and varieties, they will start decreasing biotech acres, especially in “multi-stacked traits”, if they do not maintain an acceptable final yield. At the end of the day, farmers want yield. It is the final measuring stick of what the year was like.
As we move forward, we will need to find the way to feed an ever growing world. With population projections of 9 billion by 2030-2050, biotechnology is going to have to be the key to making sure the world has a plentiful, healthy, affordable food supply. And we, as farmers, will continue to plant it.
Brandon Hunnicutt farms in South Central Nebraska with his dad, brother, and cousin. They raise corn, soybeans and popcorn. All their corn and soybeans contain some aspect of biotechnology in them, except for the popcorn. Brandon has been involved with defending biotechnology and promoting throughout the years and currently serves as President of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.