|April 2, 2004,
Indiana farmers lag behind most leading corn-producing
states in planting genetically modified (GMO) corn. Old-fashioned
Hoosier common sense appears to be at work, said Corinne
Alexander, a grain marketing specialist in Purdue University's
Department of Agricultural Economics.
Unlike many states to its west, Indiana has suffered
little damage from European corn borer, a major corn-destroying
pest. Thus, Indiana farmers are reluctant to plant corn
containing the insect-killing bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt) gene and other resistance traits because there
is no economic motivation to do so, Alexander said.
Also, farmers growing non-GMO corn are receiving attractive
prices for their crops, she said.
"When people wonder why Indiana has fewer acres
in GMO corn varieties than other states, I think there
are two reasons," Alexander said. "One is
that the large agronomic benefits for producers in Indiana
haven't been there or, at least, they haven't seen them.
The second reason is that Indiana has a very large market
for food-grade and non-GMO corn, which provides good
opportunities for premiums for producers."
Alexander added that Hoosier producers also might be
less inclined to plant biotech crops because some GMO
grain is not approved for sale to Europe, making it
more difficult to sell.
Indiana farmers are expected to plant 19 percent of
the state's 5.6 million acres of corn to biotech varieties
this spring, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture
report issued Wednesday (3/31). One year ago, 16 percent
of Indiana corn acres were planted to GMO seed, including
insect- and herbicide-resistant varieties, and stacked
gene varieties that contain multiple resistance traits.
In comparison, Illinois farmers are projected to plant
35 percent of that state's 11.2 million acres of corn
to GMO varieties in 2004, the USDA reported. The percentages
are even greater in Iowa (53 percent), Minnesota (57
percent), Nebraska (64 percent) and South Dakota (80
percent). Indiana corn growers are ahead of Ohio farmers
in adopting biotech corn, however. Only 16 percent of
Ohio's corn acreage is expected to be GMO varieties.
Nationwide, 46 percent of the 79 million acres farmers
say they'll plant to corn this season will be biotech,
the USDA reported.
Biotech seed corn costs about $115 per bag, while non-GMO
corn seed is roughly $93 per bag. Farmers usually earn
about a 10-cent premium per bushel of identity-preserved
non-biotech corn. "Between the difference in seed
costs and the premium, this would mean about a $22 an
acre revenue advantage for non-biotech corn, assuming
an average yield of 140 bushels per acre," Alexander
The 3 percent increase in GMO corn acres statewide
this year likely can be attributed to farmers purchasing
a new Bt variety resistant to corn rootworm, Alexander
While Indiana farmers aren't moving toward GMO corn
en masse, they've already made the switch to biotech
soybeans. For the second straight year, Hoosier growers
are projected to plant 88 percent of their soybean acreage
with seed resistant to Roundup herbicide. Nationally,
the average is 86 percent — up 5 percent from
Farmers deciding to stick with non-biotech soybeans
should have little trouble marketing their crop, and
at a high price, Alexander said.
"On the Ohio River we have a market for non-GMO
soybeans," she said. "The buyer there is Japan.
Japan continues to want to source non-GMO soybeans from
the United States, and they look to states like Indiana,
Illinois and Ohio for their sources of certified non-GMO
"The news that the acreage in GMO soybeans has
increased is good news for all those producers who are
selling non-GMO soybeans, because that means premiums,
which are currently in the 35- to 50-cent a bushel range,
are going to remain strong in that 35- to 50-cent range."
The USDA's estimates on GMO crop plantings can be found
in the department's Prospective Plantings Report, under
"Biotechnology Varieties." That report is
available online at http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/pspl0304.txt