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Henry Agard Wallace, the Iowa Corn Yield Tests, and the Adoption of Hybrid Corn

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  • Richard C. Sutch

Abstract

This research report makes the following claims: 1] There was not an unambiguous economic advantage of hybrid corn over the open-pollinated varieties in 1936. 2] The early adoption of hybrid corn before 1937 can be better explained by a sustained propaganda campaign conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the direction of the Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Agard Wallace. The Department's campaign echoed that of the commercial seed companies. The most prominent hybrid seed company, Pioneer Hi-Bred Company, was founded by Wallace and he retained a financial interest while serving as Secretary. 3] The early adopters of hybrid seed were followed by later adopters as a consequence of the droughts of 1934 and especially 1936. The eventual improvement of yields as newer varieties were introduced explains the continuation and acceleration of the process.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard C. Sutch, 2008. "Henry Agard Wallace, the Iowa Corn Yield Tests, and the Adoption of Hybrid Corn," NBER Working Papers 14141, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14141
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2001. "Reshaping The Landscape: The Impact And Diffusion Of The Tractor In American Agriculture, 1910 1960," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(03), pages 663-698, September.
    2. Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2002. "Hog Round Marketing, Seed Quality, and Government Policy: Institutional Change in U.S. Cotton Production, 1920-60," ICER Working Papers 37-2002, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    3. A. A. Dowell & O. B. Jesness, 1939. "Economic Aspects of Hybrid Corn," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 21(2), pages 479-488.
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    5. Paul David, 2005. "Zvi Griliches on Diffusion, Lags and Productivity Growth …Connecting the Dots," Labor and Demography 0502002, EconWPA.
    6. Olmstead,Alan L. & Rhode,Paul W., 2008. "Creating Abundance," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521857116.
    7. repec:sae:ecolab:v:16:y:2006:i:2:p:1-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Knudson, Mary K. & Ruttan, Vernon W., 1988. "Research and Development of a Biological Innovation: Commercial Hybrid Wheat," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, issue 01.
    9. Arthur Diamond, 2004. "Zvi Griliches's contributions to the economics of technology and growth," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(4), pages 365-397.
    10. Zvi Griliches, 1958. "Research Costs and Social Returns: Hybrid Corn and Related Innovations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 419-419.
    11. M. Ruth & K. Donaghy & P. Kirshen, 2006. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Regional Climate Change and Variability, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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    14. repec:cup:jechis:v:61:y:2002:i:03:p:663-698_03 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Hornbeck, 2012. "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1477-1507, June.
    2. Michael J. Roberts & Wolfram Schlenker, 2011. "The Evolution of Heat Tolerance of Corn: Implications for Climate Change," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, pages 225-251 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2010. "Adoption Curves and Social Interactions," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(1), pages 232-251, March.
    4. Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G. & Ruttan, Vernon W., 2008. "Research Lags Revisited: Concepts and Evidence from U.S. Agriculture," Staff Papers 50091, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
    5. Richard Sutch, 2010. "The Impact of the 1936 Corn-Belt Drought on American Farmers’ Adoption of Hybrid Corn," Working Papers 201002, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2010.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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