Yield Performance of Corn Under Heat Stress: A Comparison of Hybrid and Open-Pollinated Seeds During a Period of Technological Transformation, 1933-1955

35 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2020

See all articles by Keith Meyers

Keith Meyers

University of Southern Denmark

Paul W. Rhode

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

Starting in the 1930s, commercial hybrid corn seeds rapidly replaced the once predominant open-pollinated varieties planted by farmers. By the mid-1950s almost all corn grown in the United States was of hybrid varieties. Observers have argued that the drought tolerant qualities of these hybrids were a major factor driving farmers’ decisions regarding hybrid adoption, but there is little statistical evidence to substantiate this assertion. Hybrid seeds exhibited other attractive qualities, such as improved performance during prime weather conditions, resistance to wind damage, and increased suitability toward mechanized harvesting. Using historical evidence from Zvi Griliches’s archival records, we reconstruct data on hybrid corn adoption and yields at a more disaggregated geographic level than previously available. We match these data with historical weather records to measure the extent to which hybrid seeds mediated the adverse effects of extreme heat. Our findings suggest that hybrid corns grown in Iowa from 1928 to 1942 did exhibit heat tolerance relative to open-pollinated varieties. This result is unique to Iowa as this reduced temperature sensitivity does not appear when comparing hybrid and open-pollinated grown in other states.

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Suggested Citation

Meyers, Keith and Rhode, Paul W., Yield Performance of Corn Under Heat Stress: A Comparison of Hybrid and Open-Pollinated Seeds During a Period of Technological Transformation, 1933-1955 (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27291, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3615488

Keith Meyers (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000
Denmark

Paul W. Rhode

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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