I recently had the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China with USSEC (United States Soybean Export Council).
We were mostly in Beijing, but one day we did travel outside the city to visit the Great Wall. Along our drive to the Great Wall, we did see some corn that had been harvested along the side of the road. The kernels were still on the cobs, and the entire ear was drying down. It was covered in plastic that day as it had been raining lightly throughout the day.
On the return flight home, I sat next to a man who worked for a large agribusiness company. He told me that the farmers in China will harvest corn at the half milk line stage which is much earlier than when the U.S. farmer would harvest. He said that the average corn yield in China is 80 bushels per acre (similar to where the U.S. was in the early 1980’s).
You’ll notice in the picture that the corn kernels have not been removed from the cobs. He said that they will allow the corn to dry down on the cobs then some sort of machine will come through and remove the kernels from the ears. The kernels will eventually be picked up and the cobs will be burned as fuel for the family’s fire during the cold months.
I would love to see a Chinese farm and harvest first hand!
Comparison to U.S. Farm
As a comparison, if the average farm in China is 2.5 acres (like 2 ½ football fields), and corn yields 80 bushels per acres, their total production would be 200 bushels of corn. Today the U.S. price of corn is $3.50, so they would yield $700 total for their crop, and entire livelihood for the year!
The average U.S. farm is 446 acres. This size of a farm requires at least one spouse (likely both) to work off the farm to support family living expenses and provide benefits, such as health insurance.
While we were traveling, we were told a few different times that the term farmer is equal to peasant in China. It’s fascinating to look at the contrast between U.S. and China’s farming styles. It makes me very thankful for the technology and innovations that we have available to us on our farm. It also reminds me of the plight that other farmers have who don’t have access as we do.