Corn is arguably the most versatile crop in the world. Normally, we think of corn as food, and food only, when actually, less than one percent of corn in our country is sweet corn. Most people do not realize that corn has many different uses and we still continue to find more. Demand for corn has been at an all time high in 2011.

The United States is the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world.  This makes the largest net contribution to United States agricultural trade balance of all the agricultural commodities. On average around 20 percent of corn from the United States is exported. The rest we keep for our own uses.

Fuel ethanol has become a huge use of corn materials. By creating fuel ethanol with corn it has created thousands of jobs to our economy and added over 15 billion dollars to tax revenues through the federal state and the local government. This has displaced more than 445 million barrels of imported oil.

By using corn for ethanol we receive multiple products. After using the starch portion of the kernel that is converted to sugar and fermented, the rest of the kernel is used as corn oil and feed for the livestock.

One of the most important uses of corn is to feed livestock daily. Farmers like to use corn to feed their livestock because it has high-protein and high-energy.

Corn can actually help save the environment! One acre of corn can remove eight tons of harmful greenhouse gas.

Did you know corn is also used to made compostable plastics? Corn based plastics are used in utensils, gift cards, bags, plant containers, water bottles and more. Since they are compostable they will break down eventually.

Not only is corn used to make plastic materials but also there is now fabrics made from corn bio-materials. Corn replaces the oil that is usually used for polyester and nylon. These new fabrics have many advantages; such as they are much softer. Corn bio-materials can also be used to create a tough, stain resistant fiber that is used for carpets.

Researchers are now trying to find even more opportunities to use corn for more petroleum-based products. The opportunities are nearly endless. From antibiotics to frosting, to pet food to baby food, corn is a widely used crop that we could not get by without.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween with plenty of candy corn!

Emilie Gill
Illinois State University Student


Growing up in the rural town of Manhattan, Illinois, just north of Kankakee and about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, I was surrounded by corn. The immensely tall grass that enveloped the landscape was always something to look forward to in the summer months. With such a proximity to Chicago, I grew up observing this juxtaposition between the urban and rural landscape. Both places had their towers whether they were rooted in concrete or rooted in dirt they both stood as monuments to human engineering. Illinois has such a history with corn from the early Cahokian civilization to the corn-fed stockyards of Chicago that supplied the world with its meat.

Agriculture has long stood as one of the most influential discoveries in human history. By supplying us with a surplus of grain and the security of a next meal, it led to the development of settled communities, and new technologies that ultimately shaped the entire way in which we live. Simultaneously, farmers who cultivated plants season after season saved the most favorable seed to be replanted for the following year. It was this process that brought the tall grass, Teosinte, to unprecedented heights and created the crop we now know as corn.

This sculpture entitled “Saving Our Seed” references humanity’s rich history with agriculture and the codependency that exists between humans and their invented ecosystem. The form which is made of steel and clear acrylic sheeting is inspired by biblical depictions of Noah’s Arc, while the materials allude to a modern green house. The 17 foot long boat holds roughly 4,000 Lbs of Corn seed. The story of Noah’s Ark was always peculiar to me as it seemed to recognize the human race as somewhat alien to this planet. It put a single person in charge of something as grand as saving two of every animal species. While I recognize mankind’s technical abilities and inventive nature I still ask the question, what would we really save? The corn inside creates a landscape within the landscape itself. It is a man made landscape, one that sustains us and depends on us.

boat load of corn noah's ark

Zach Balousek
SIUE Student


Growing up in Central Illinois has given me a certain respect towards farmers. I feel as if I have a pretty basic understanding on the importance of farming and building a relationship with your farmers. Although my stance on different agricultural issues is one that is a bit hazy, I feel like I could describe to someone the role which farmers play.

farm, farmer, field, run down, shed, red, brown, boardsOne can only imagine the cultural difference from moving from the small town of Mansfield, Illinois to attending Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois- a large university with a majority of its’ students from suburban areas. Northern is not a university one would normally attend to gain a better agricultural education.  Ever since receiving this internship and working more closely with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, I have begun to start a conversation with many of my fellow students on what farming means to them or how they see farmers. Throughout my discussions, I have come across five common misconceptions on how some suburban or urban students view farmers—some of those being quite humorous.

1. All crops that farmers grow are for the population to consume.

yum, butter, husks, corn on the cobMany of the students I spoke with believed that all of the corn fields grown around the area were edible—as if they could walk into the field and bring home the corn for some delicious corn on the cob. Obviously this is not the case. Most corn grown is for livestock rather than for consumption. In fact, according to the National Corn Growers Association about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn.

2. Farmers don’t have college educations.

intelligent, farmers, farms, college, university, smartThis statement is one which I find to be rather humorous. The amount of farmers gaining a college degree and higher education is continuing to grow. According to the USDA, in 2009, a quarter of farmers graduated with a four year degree or more. See their website for more information.


3. Farming is a dying profession.

Although data from the U.S. Agriculture Department does show that the average age of the U.S. farm has been increasing for decades and the overall percentage of young farmers continues to fall. However, people within the movement say these numbers can be misleading. They claim that more and more young people are going into farming. This may be a grey area, I would definitely disagree with the statement that farming is a “dying profession.”

4.computers, tractors, combines, GPS Farming is a low tech industry.

That’s got to be a joke! Some of the most high technology is currently invading farms across the country. What about yield monitors, variable rate technology, GPS systems, and more? See this post on the Singularity Hub website for more information: http://singularityhub.com/2011/03/13/precision-agriculture-high-technology-invades-the-farm/

 5. All farmers are men. 

ladies, girls, farmers, farm, womenThis seems to be a very common misconception with the students I spoke with. They believed that the typical farmer was a male. According to the 2007 USDA Agriculture Census, Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators counted in 2007 Census, 30.2 percent — or more than 1 million — were women. And that was JUST in 2007—the number is still growing! 

Starting conversations with suburban and urban students about farming is exactly what we need to do to educate others and put an end towards these misconceptions. I hope to continue to have conversations such as these and get the word out about farming!

Lauren Gress
Northern Illinois University student


There are so many things to know about both pigs and pork.  Perhaps some of these little known facts will surprise you! 

Did you know…

The Pork® Be inspiredsm  brand campaign was launched this year to reach more than 82 million Americans who already cook, eat and love pork.

Did you know…

Pork tenderloin is just as lean as a skinless chicken breast, and it contains slightly fewer calories than the same size serving of a skinless chicken breast.

Did you know…

When hot dogs were first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, they were called “red hots.” These red hots were served with white gloves, instead of a bun, to keep fingers cool while eating.

food, supper, dinner, pork roast, recipesDid you know…

For juicy and tender pork, cook the meat until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF, let it rest for three minutes and it is ready to serve.

Did you know…

Pigs first came to the American mainland in 1539, brought by Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto. 

Did you know…

China, not America, is the No. 1 producer and consumer of fresh pork in the world.

Did you know…

The longest sausage in the world is recorded at 6,643-foot-long (or 2,025-meter).  Turija holds the Guinness Book World Record for longest sausage, and each year, the town breaks the record by a centimeter, according to Balkaninsight.com.

new york, street sign, photographyDid you know…

During colonial times, people living on Manhattan Island had to build a wall to keep out wild pigs. This area is known today as Wall Street.

Did you know…

On average, the six most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent.


Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Are you wondering how to take a better picture? Well this week’s topic is a simple one that will help improve your photos tremendously.

Find clean backgrounds!

wind energy sky corn field farm farmer alternative clean Have you ever noticed a picture of a person with a telephone pole or a tree sticking out of the back of their head? Doesn’t look right does it? If you want to use a tree in the background of your picture just make sure that you place it correctly.

This simple step of having a clean background will take the most average picture and make it an awesome shot. You want to be able to see the bigger picture past what your subject is.

You might be wondering what a clean background is exactly? They are solid colors, generally without distracting power lines or anything that will draw the viewers’ eye away from what you’re shooting. You may have to place your camera at higher or lower level to achieve a clean photo background. Sometimes I stand on chairs or even lay on my belly to get a good shot, (you might look silly but at least you get a nice photo!) By getting at a lower level, you’ll make the background the sky which is more often than not clean. By raising the camera up, you’ll get clean backgrounds such as the ground.

When taking a picture, think of it as in terms of layers. You’ll have your foreground which is closest to the bottom, the middle area is the subject, background is behind the subject, and infinity is what is behind the background.

Photography is a lot of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged! A lot of times you have to play with your layers and see what works and what doesn’t. Always keep your eyes open for a better position to give you a cleaner photo. Sometimes you do want a busy photo, but always look for those clean backgrounds and it will make your photos much more appealing.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Give this tip a try. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles in search of the clean background.

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


I asked Google to tell me a little bit about Lung Health Month and quickly discovered that October is full of reminders to be healthy.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Eye Injury Prevention Month, Depression and Mental Health Month, and a whole host of other things to be aware of.  With all of these different things that we’re supposed to keep in mind, it would be easy for Lung Health Month to get lost in the shuffle or forgotten about all together.  So what makes lung health stand out?  Why should you keep reading about lung health when you could be learning more about mental health and how to avoid injuring your eyes?  After all, everyone already knows that all you have to do to improve lung health is avoid smoking.  And if you really want to get serious about it, you might even consider putting in one of those radon mitigation systems.  But there’s more to it than just that. 

Lung health is impacted by the air that we breathe, the dirtier the air the less healthy our lungs become.  So other than not breathing (which is not recommended!), how do you address poor lung health related to dirty air?  There are lots of ways to improve air quality, but one of the things that you might not automatically think of is using a cleaner burning fuel, like E85, in your car or truck.  You likely know that E85 is an ethanol based fuel made from corn grown throughout the Midwest, but there’s more to it than just that.  A gallon of E85 fuel reduces the petroleum content of the fuel by up to 85%, replacing it with cleaner burning ethanol. 

From a healthy lung standpoint, this means that there are fewer pollutants in the air that we breathe.  The use of E85 fuel helps to reduce the emission of lung cancer causing chemicals such as benzene and a few other harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).  E85 also helps to reduces asthma irritants that result from the usage of typical petroleum based fuels. 

One of the best parts about E85 fuel is that you don’t have to wait 25 years for the fuel to be commercially available.  You can buy it today from one of the over 200 gas stations in Illinois selling E85. If you’re not sure where the closest E85 station is, be sure to visit www.CleanAirChoice.org for a complete list of E85 stations throughout the Midwest.  And while it is true that you do need a Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) to take advantage of the opportunities of E85, there are more vehicle models capable of using the fuel now than ever before.  While you’re at www.CleanAir.Choice.org you can also find out whether or not you currently own a FFV, or you can see a list of available FFV models.

As Lung Health Month comes to a close over the next week or so, take the time to consider using E85 fuel, not just in the month of October, but all year long.  After all, how many opportunities do you really have to improve not only your lung health, but also for the lung health of people sitting in the car behind you at the stoplight, the kids at the playground that you’re driving past, and the family, friends and neighbors living in your community?

Matt Marcum
American Lung Association of Illinois


Agricultural commodity producers from across the state will gather for the 2011 Illinois Commodity Conference on Tuesday, November 22 at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington, Ill. The one-day event – centered on the theme “Gateway to the Future” ­– begins with registration at 7:30 a.m., which is followed by networking at 9:00 a.m. The first speaker starts at 9:55 a.m., and the entire program ends at approximately 2:30 p.m. 

Six Illinois commodity groups are hosting the conference, including the Illinois Beef Association (IBA), Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Illinois Milk Producers Association (IMPA), Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA), Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) and Illinois Wheat Association (IWA). In addition, three agricultural companies – Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer – are serving as major sponsors of the event. Developed to promote leadership and cooperation among these commodity groups, it also serves as a venue for educating producers and enhancing market opportunities.

Producers interested in attending the 2011 Illinois Commodity Conference may register in advance or at the door. The fee, which includes lunch, is $65 before November 14 and $90 thereafter. Students are eligible to register at a discounted rate of $30. More information, including a complete agenda, is available online at www.ilcommodityconf.org or by calling (309) 557-3703.



Originally posted on Corn Commentary

Usually farmers like to have dry weather in the fall to get the crops out of the field – just not too dry!

Harvest season two years ago was so wet that crops in some areas went unharvested until the following spring. This year is a totally different story. Combine fires setting fields on fire have been happening all over the corn belt this season because it has been so dry and windy, the worst areas being Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

“Extreme conditions in South Dakota this fall created a perfect storm of high temperatures, low humidity, dry crops, and high winds producing extreme risk of fires during harvest,” said Daniel Humburg, professor of Ag & Biosystems Engineering Department at South Dakota State University.

There is still plenty of harvesting yet to be done and while most farmers understand the risks of combine fires and how to prevent them, a little reminder never hurts. University of Nebraska farm safety specialist Dave Morgan offers these safety tips:

– Keep your equipment clean and in good repair. When you get done for the day, take time to clean your machine thoroughly with an air compressor, power washer, or even a broom to dislodge any crop residue or chaff from the combine.

– Fix any fuel, hydraulic or oil leaks. When it’s this windy, vegetative matter breaks up into really fine material that readily accumulates on oil and fuel leaks, Morgan said. This creates a source of solid and liquid fuel. From there, it doesn’t take much to start the fire — a dry bearing or a slipping belt can quickly heat up or spark.

– Check fluid levels and carefully refill, being careful not to spill any oil or fuel on the equipment. But don’t overfill fluid reservoirs. With high temperatures in the mid 80s, oil expands and may “burp” out the vent, creating another fuel source for fire.

– Carry at least one, and preferably two, fully charged 10 lb ABC fire extinguishers on all equipment. (Be sure to have your fire extinguishers inspected annually and refilled as necessary).

Let’s be careful out there!


And here’s an update on one Illinois farmer’s harvest:

Jim Raben, Ridgeway – We are about 70% finished with corn and around 54% with soybeans.  This week’s rain is keeping us out of the fields, but we anticipate finishing up soon.

Tell us, where are you at with your harvest?



Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Today’s tip is how to shoot a silhouette image. Silhouettes are a great way to capture drama, mystery, emotion, and mood to the people viewing your photo. They also allow you to use your imagination on the image since they don’t give you a very clear picture of everything.

Basically what you have to do in order to produce a silhouette image is to place your subject in front of some source of light and force your camera to set its exposure based upon the brightest part of your picture which would be the background and not the subject of your image. This will under expose your subject and turn it very dark.

First you need to choose a strong subject to photograph. Pretty much anything can be made into a silhouette, although some subjects are better than others. A subject with a strong, identifiable, and distinct shape will make a good silhouette image.

Then you need to turn your flash off. If shooting on your automatic mode your camera will most likely want to use its flash, which will ruin your silhouette image.

In shooting silhouettes, instead of lighting the front of your subject, you need to make sure there is more light coming from the background than the foreground of your image. Basically you want to light the back of your subject instead of the front. The perfect time to shoot a silhouette image is either at sunrise or sunset, but any bright light will do.

A plain bright background is the best for shooting a silhouette image. A bright cloudless sky with a sunset will make one of the prettiest images. If you have more than two subjects in your picture, make sure that they are separated so that you can distinguish the subject, and then let your imagination wander. If you are shooting a profile picture I recommend that you don’t shoot straight on, turn your subject to more of an angle so you can distinguish their features.

Most digital cameras have automatic metering which are good at sensing how to expose the picture so that everything it lit. The problem you might face is that your camera will want to try and light up your picture instead of underexposing it. What you can do to trick your camera is aim your camera at the brightest part of the picture, push your shutter halfway down and don’t let go. Then move your camera back to frame the shot you want with the subject where you want it and finish taking the photo.

If that doesn’t work on your camera give the manual setting a try. Your shutter speed and aperture is what you are dealing with in manual photography, (if you aren’t familiar with shutter speed and aperture I recommend looking in your camera book).

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Can you capture a silhouette?  Farm animals, machinery, children, and produce can all make good subjects.  Or use your imagination and experiment with others!

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


I grew up in a small town in east-central Illinois.  Actually Hindsboro was bigger 20+ years ago, but I went to school in Oakland—another small town.  When I went to the University of Illinois, had to explain to some of my fellow freshmen that I could really get into the big U with a graduating class of 32!    We even had chemistry!   Who knew that one day–with a  History and English Teaching Degree–I’d be talking about Chemistry in Agriculture?  Well, Mr. Sullivan (my HS Chemistry Teacher!), this one is for you!!

October 16-22 marks National Chemistry Week!  Yes, you will find chemistry in Agriculture!   Not just the Arsenic (yes it IS an element! Symbol As; Atomic Weight 33) that Dr. Oz was talking about a couple of weeks ago!   The Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association has some excellent resources related to our three main chemicals related to agriculture N, P and K. 

As harvest continues across the state, you’ll soon notice many farmers incorporating nitrogen into their field in the form of anhydrous ammonia (NH3) and ammonium sulfate ([NH4]2SO4).  Farmers take special precautions when using these materials that are used as an aid to replenish nitrogen used in the growing process.    The concept of adding fertilizer is old, real old!   Since 1849, mixed fertilizer has been sold commercially, and even long before that, the legend says that Squanto (or Tisquantum) taught the Pilgrims to fertilize their corn with fish.  The practice of replenishing the nutrients of the soil is something consumers do as well as they begin to prepare their lawns for the winter.

The Virginia Ag in the Classroom program has developed some outstanding middle school and high school chemistry applications using the periodic table.  My favorite is a lesson on what percentages of each element N, P and K are in various size bags of fertilizer.  For example a 10 pound bag of  10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% of each N, P, and K.   30% of the bag (3 pounds) is actually the nutrient, the remaining 70% (7 pounds) are filler, which allows those using the fertilizer to spread it over a large area without the threat of over-fertilizing. 

Our own Illinois Soil Ag Mag features a great look at N, P and K and how Illinois farmers work to protect our most precious asset, our great soil!

So as we celebrate National Chemistry Week next week–what about watching a farmer, and thanking him for taking care of the land and the water we all share–and learn a little chemistry along the way!

Kevin Daugherty
Illinois Ag in the Classroom