Why corn matters to us

Why corn matters to us

Corn is a basic food for nearly one billion people, especially in Africa and Latin America. With so many hungry families depending on it – sometimes for over half their daily calorie intake – we put all the energy we can into supporting the world’s corn farmers.

Their harvest gets turned into a whole variety of dishes, such as warm cornmeal porridge (called polenta in Italy and mealie pap in South Africa), tortillas and cornflakes. As a street snack in many parts of the world, you’ll find roasted kernels or entire ears of corn – best enjoyed oozing with butter. Corn is even being turned into alcohol to make bourbon whiskey.

Corn is also vital for livestock producers because it can be so efficiently converted into feed. As demand for livestock increases worldwide, so will the demand for corn. It even makes biofuel. For the good of this vital and versatile crop, we offer farmers the best technologies and resources we can.

Corn: the facts

  • The total value of global corn production each year is 200 billion euros – nearly 30 euros for every person on earth
  • The harvest weighs in at some 850 million tons, more than any other crop plant
  • 170 million hectares of land are planted to corn, an area exceeded only by wheat
  • The United States is by far the largest corn producer, growing more than one third of global output
  • Other large producers include China, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina
  • Almost 30 per cent of the land used for corn cultivation worldwide is already planted with genetically modified corn seed – most in the United States, and rising globally

Problems farmers face

Velvetleaf, morning glory, barnyard grass, pig weed and wild sunflower are pretty names – but a major cause of stress for farmers. They need to act fast or risk losing 20 per cent or more of the harvest, even everything: a frightening prospect.

Then there’s the billion-dollar beetle, whose real name is Western corn rootworm. Its nickname tells you all you need to know about the cost of the damage it inflicts in the United States each year.

Originally found only in the United States, the black-and-yellow pest is now troubling European farmers too. The larvae attack the roots of the corn seedlings, inhibiting healthy growth and the dense root structure they need for stability.

Egg mass of the western corn rootworm near a corn kernel, Larvae of the western corn rootworm, Western corn rootworm on a corn leaf.
Egg mass of the western corn rootworm near a corn kernel, Larvae of the western corn rootworm, Western corn rootworm on a corn leaf.
(From left to right) Egg mass of the western corn rootworm near a corn kernel, Larvae of the western corn rootworm, Western corn rootworm on a corn leaf.

Answers we offer

We strongly urge farmers to protect plants from day one by sowing pretreated seed. We’re among the world’s leading suppliers of seed treatment products, which also provide protection against the billion-dollar beetle we introduced you to earlier – the corn rootworm.

Another option for farmers is Votivo™: a biological seed treatment. It releases a bacterium that multiplies in the soil to ward off pests called nematodes.

‘We didn’t have to come back and respray,’ says Ron Neill, a corn farmer in the US state of Ohio, happily recalling the first time he used Corvus™ (known in some countries as Adengo™) on his corn fields.

To fight all kinds of weeds in cornfields, we’ve also developed Capreno™, Laudis™ (or Soberan™) and Merlin™ flexx (or Balance™ flexx). This variety also helps to avoid quick development of weed resistance.

There is an urgent need to increase global corn yields to feed the world population. With our fungicides Stratego™ YLD, Nativo™ and Propulse™ we contribute to achieving this important goal.

New technologies for the field

When pests and weeds become resistant to individual active ingredients, farmers could be in serious trouble – and need to act fast to save their harvest. One method, which we promote strongly for weed control, is to rotate herbicides with different modes of action. In the United States, we’ve launched a special campaign ‘Respect the Rotation’ to get the message across to farmers.

We’re also looking at developing plant traits which give crops like corn an in-built tolerance to certain herbicides or ability to control pests. It’s an area we’re very excited about. It will give farmers new options for weed and pest control.