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The Future Of Corn Farming In The QCA

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Farmers say nitrogen is the number one nutrient for growing corn, and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board recently received a patent for a plant that uses it more efficiently. Local farmers say this could have big benefits for the economy.

"It's very exciting that this breakthrough has happened," said Joe Dierickx, who, like most farmers, uses nitrogen to fertilize his crops.

Although the amount of it used on crops has lessened over time, he says it's still an expensive treatment.

"When my father was farming, he figured it took one and-a-half to two pounds of nitrogen per bushel," he said. "Now, I figure about one pound of nitrogen per bushel that I try to grow."

With the new plant gene, Dierickx will be able to grow more corn using less nitrogen.

"That should stretch the nitrogen that we have available on the planet to be used wisely," he said.

The new plant would either allow farmers to keep applying the amount of nitrogen as before, but more than double the amount of bushels per acre, or they could apply half the amount of nitrogen, and still get the same yield.

"Whether it will save me in fertilizer costs, or it will save me because we'll produce more, I'm excited about it," Dierickx said.

He says if they're able to lessen production costs, it's also good for livestock producers, lowering the cost of corn, and meat, and those savings could get passed on to the consumer. The next step for the board would be to license the patented plant to big seed manufacturers.

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