Washington – Over the past 30 years, and in particular in the past decade, ethanol production has quietly become increasingly efficient. From improvements in corn production to greater efficiencies at ethanol biorefineries, America’s leading renewable fuel is providing more with less.
Throughout August, the RFA will be pointing out these improvements in a series of graphics and blog posts – the first of which can be found here. This effort will examine the increasing productivity of American farmers while using fewer inputs as well as the yield improvements and efficiency gains at the more than 200 American ethanol biorefineries.
“The easy sources of oil and natural gas are quickly depleting and new sources are extraordinarily energy-intensive to produce and refine, and often come from environmentally sensitive areas,” said RFA Vice President Geoff Cooper. “Conversely, American farmers and ethanol producers are providing more corn, more ethanol, and more feed using fewer and fewer resources. That data speaks for itself.”
The first installment focuses on the increased productivity and efficiency of American corn growers.
In 1980, farmers averaged a yield of 91 bushels of corn per acre and produced a crop of 6.6 billion bushels. In 2009, just a generation later, farmers produced an average yield of 164.7 bushels per acre and harvested 13.1 billion bushels. This doubling of the American corn crop was achieved by planting just 3% more corn acres in 2009 than were planted in 1980.
All of this productivity is coming with less water use. Just 13% of the nation’s corn crop is irrigated. The vast majority of water for corn production comes in the form of rain. For those acres that require additional water resources, farmers are using 23% less water today than they were in 1988. The same type of water use efficiencies are being mirrored at ethanol biorefineries, as we will discuss later this month.
“As will become evident throughout the month of August, America’s farmers and ethanol producers continue to embrace new technologies and practices that reduce energy and resource demands while simultaneously increasing production of both grain and renewable fuel,” said Cooper.