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A Closer Look At Crop Migration

Our Nov. 19 hour on the gradual northern greening of North America — and by extension, the world — focused heavily on the trek of a few key crops inching toward the Canadian border. In theory, that sounds pretty bizarre, but on paper, it straightens out.

USA Today offered up a couple of telling maps in a story on the issue from this September.

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data / Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA TODAY)

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data / Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA TODAY)

Compare the above map with the average acreage of corn harvested from 2008 to 2012, as seen below.

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data / Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider)

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data /
Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA Today)

Corn harvests are slowly inching ever northward, changing the way much of the Midwestern corn belt region looks.

It’s possible to trace a similar path with soybean harvests. Below, soy bean harvests from 1963 to 1967.

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA Today)

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data
Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA Today)

And below, the same harvests from 2008 to 2012.

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA Today)

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture data
Janet Loehrke and Julie Snider, USA Today)

What do you make of the changing trajectory of major crop harvests? Is it all a part of climate change, or a normal part of the North American continent’s shifting crop yields? Leave us your thoughts below, or on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Jane

    It’s quite possible that the plants have been bred to be more cold weather resistant. Besides, bear in mind that 15,000 years ago, the entire northernmost tier of states was under a glacier. I wouldn’t be in Maine now, if it weren’t for the global warming of the last several centuries.

  • Candid One

    Yes, it would be interesting to see studies that include other parameters, like the rise and fall of demand for corn ethanol, as well as the fluctuating demands for livestock feed, the effects of droughts and floods, and the growing market for livestock feed in China.

    Economics is the reason for Big Ag anyway. Among large agricultural corporations with technological support, operational brinksmanship is seen as a worthwhile part of doing business.

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