I have the great pleasure of giving a talk this week at the annual meeting of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES). Tonight they held their awards ceremony, and I happened to be sitting next to Phil Pardey from the University of Minnesota who won (along with Jason Beddow) one of the research awards for a paper they published in the Journal of Economic History titled "Moving Matters".
This is a fascinating paper that documents the movement of corn production over time in the US. The paper illustrates the impact of hybrid and then genetically modified corn influencing what can be grown and where. Changes in genetics and management practices allowed the corn plant to move to soils that best suited the production of the crop. As a result, they calculate that upwards of 21% of the growth in corn production can be explained by the geographic movement of the crop. The results have implications for assumptions about impacts of climate change (i.e., that farmers can adapt by moving which crops, and which genetics, are planted where in response to changing temperatures) and for arguments about local foods (i.e., the sustainable production of crops depends on location of production, and allowing farmers to specialize in the geographic production of a crop can dramatically increase production).
Here's the abstract:
And, an interesting graph: