The Impact of the 1936 Corn Belt Drought on American Farmers' Adoption of Hybrid Corn

Richard Sutch

in The Economics of Climate Change

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780226479880
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226479903 | DOI:
The Impact of the 1936 Corn Belt Drought on American Farmers' Adoption of Hybrid Corn

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This chapter studies the adoption of hybrid corn. Diffusion could be described by a logistic function, whereby individuals learned from first adopters. As more parties considered the innovation, overall penetration rose initially at an increasing rate to an inflection point; after that, adoption rose more slowly. The process was complex and there was critical involvement of both government and private companies. Until the 1936 drought, there was little or no economic advantage to hybrid corn over standard, open-pollinated varieties due to the high cost of seed and the need for more fertilizer and greater use of mechanization at a time of low corn prices. Hybrid corn seeds had been marketed commercially in the United States since 1925, with slow adoption. The drought of 1936 revealed advantages of hybrid corn that previously had been unrecognized—its drought tolerance. This advantage led to more rapid adoption, especially in the more drought-prone western Corn Belt in 1937 and 1938.

Keywords: hybrid corn; American farmers; innovation; drought; fertilizer; drought tolerance; Corn Belt

Chapter.  11337 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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