Corn’s Role In The Southern Crops Family

By Carroll Smith

cover_oct11One of the main pastimes in the small, Mid-South town where I grew up was to go “riding around.” Whether it was with my friends after school or my parents or grandparents on Sunday afternoon, we burnt many a tank of gas cruising along the two-lane roads that led to just about anywhere you wanted to go.

In the rural part of the state in which we lived, the majority of the landscape consisted of cotton, soybean and milo fields, pecan orchards and palmetto bushes that seemed to crop up everywhere, and, once they were established, were virtually impossible to get rid of. In looking back, my mind’s eye really doesn’t conjure up images of flashing by cornfields while checking out the countryside. I vaguely remember seeing what I would call an occasional patch of corn (that I assume was probably used for feed) or some sweet corn growing in someone’s garden. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know what a corn plant looked like, it was just that there weren’t that many around.

That scenario changed dramatically when “corn fever” descended on the Southern states four years ago. Acreage jumped from 1,920,000 in 2006 to 4,035,000 in 2007. The infrastructure supporting the Southern grain industry was frantically scratching its head and wondering “How are we going to get all of this corn unloaded in a timely manner at the elevators; where are we going to store it; and how are we going to deal with the shipping logistics?” It was a wild ride in 2007, but, in the end, everything worked out.

Today, corn acreage has dropped a bit as King Cotton makes an impressive comeback, but cornfields are now an established part of the Southern agriculture landscape. Farmers currently have the luxury of choosing from a long list of hybrids suited for the Southern growing region and have become well versed on corn production, markets and equipment.

Although it would be untrue to say corn has taken over the Southern landscape, it has definitely increased its presence and proved to be a profitable member of the Southern crops family. I am confident in saying that corn production in the South is right on track and improving every year.

Now, if we could just figure out how to market all of those prolific palmetto bushes…

If you have comments, send them to Corn South, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. You may also call (800) 888-9784 or contact Lia Guthrie at or Carroll Smith at

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