1 November 2017

The Environmental Impact of Corn

Feed corn is the nation’s most widely grown crop, but some environmentalists are concerned about the impact of the corn’s supply chain on greenhouse gas emissions. New research from the University of Minnesota studies the impact of corn production down to the county-level, and this research could help companies better manage their environmental impacts.

Guest: Jennifer Schmitt, Program Director and Lead Scientist at the University of Minnesota’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise


  • Part 1 – 13:50

    Water and fertilizer use contribute to corn’s high level of greenhouse-gas emissions—but these uses vary greatly from farm to farm. Until the U of M’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise released its study, companies relied only on a national estimate for corn’s environmental impact. The NiSE’s new model helps identify counties that use the most irrigation water and produce the most greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Part 2 – 12:45

    Last year, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, partnered with NiSE to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the company’s supply chain 25 percent by 2025. Schmitt describes how NiSE is helping Smithfield reach this goal. Schmitt says that while she and NiSE are thinking about how to help reduce the environmental harm caused by corn, they are also considering the importance of the crop and how corn will need to contribute to the food supply for the world’s soon-to-be population of nine billion.