1. Illinois corn farmers are growing field corn, not sweet corn.
I know this is confusing – but 99% of the corn grown in Illinois is not the corn you eat on your dinner table. That corn is sweet corn, bred for its sugar content so that it tastes so amazing! The corn we grow in Illinois is field corn (or dent corn) that is bred for starch.
Field corn is a grain. Sweet corn is a vegetable.
2. Illinois planted 88 million acres of field corn and 555,000 acres of sweet corn.
We also grew 13.6 billion bushels of field corn compared to 137 million bushel equivalents.(Equivalents because sweet corn is weighed still on the cob so we have to remove the cob to make them comparable.) And the crop value of Illinois field corn is $49 billion – considerably more than sweet corn’s $1.02 billion value.
3. The two plants even look completely different in the field.
Sweet corn is shorter, has larger tassels visible, and is often a lighter green. Field corn is taller, has smaller visible tassels, and is darker green. We harvest sweet corn in the milk stage in the middle of summer. We harvest field corn in the fall when the plant starts to die and the corn kernels dry up.
4. Illinois is in the top five states in ag cash income and crop cash receipts.
In English, this is code for the Illinois economy is built on ag. It’s one of our top industries. Illinois is the number 2 corn producer (behind Iowa), the number 3 ethanol producer, number 2 in pork production, and the largest exporter of corn in the country!
5. Most of the corn grown in Illinois is exported out of the state.
In Illinois, 47 percent of the corn is exported out of the state. Of the remaining corn, 27 percent is made into ethanol, 21 percent is used for processing (corn plastic, high fructose corn syrup, etc), and 5 percent is used to feed cows, pigs, and chickens.
Of that 27 percent used for ethanol, 1/3 is sold as a by-product of ethanol production that makes an excellent livestock feed. So some of the ethanol corn is actually used twice – by the ethanol industry and the animal agriculture industry.
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