Less corn. More cowpies.
April 1, 2009

The USDA thinks that farmers are going to plant 1% fewer acres of corn than they did last year. In Iowa, that looks like a decrease of about 100,000 acres (to city kids, that's about 156 square miles). Since corn and soybeans are they predominant commodities grown in Iowa and Nebraska, most of those acres not planted to corn will probably be used to raise soybeans. Demand for ethanol drove corn prices through the roof last year, since oil prices soared and took ethanol prices along with them throughout the first half of last year. Interestingly, though, even though gas prices now are about half what they were last year, farmers are still planning to plant the third-largest number of corn acres since 1949.

This will have a number of effects on the water environment. First, corn is heavily irrigated throughout Nebraska, and Nebraska farmers are planning to plant the same number of corn acres as last year. This means that competitive demand for water resources in the Cornhusker State will remain as high as ever. Meanwhile, with fewer corn acres being planted in Iowa and tougher restrictions being placed on the land application of manure to soybean fields, farmers in the Hawkeye State will have to look at new ways to dispose of their cattle waste, which may mean greater interest in products like lagoon liners to protect groundwater and streams, and perhaps in products like lagoon covers, which can capture methane from the cattle waste and turn it into valuable energy.

April 2009
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last revised April 2009