Total corn production in 1950 totaled 2.7 billion bushels from those 82 billion acres. In 2009, on similar acreage, corn production topped 13 billion bushels. “That’s a 430 percent increase,” Miller said.

Soybeans and wheat have also seen significant production increases. Soybean acreage increased from 15 million in the 1950s to 74 million in 2011. Yield increased by 277 percent over that time. Wheat jumped from 71.3 million bushels in 1950 to just more than 1 billion bushels in the last few years. And that increase comes from about 24 percent fewer acres.

The Texas Blacklands, the focus for the annual conference, has witnessed a lot of ups and down with acreage and production, Miller said. “We harvested 700,000 acres of wheat in 2007.” That number dropped significantly last year because of the devastating drought. Weather has played a big role in yields for Blacklands crops through the years. “One of the biggest challenges faced by Blacklands farmers is the variability of crop yield due to weather.”

Crop management advances have made increased yields possible, when weather cooperates, Miller said.

Development of effective herbicides was an early success story. “For instance, 2,4-D was first used in 1940,” he said. “Soon we had dozens of herbicides of multiple families available.”

He said widespread use of commercial fertilizer also helped farmers increase yields. Soil test technology improved and aided farmers in identifying fertility needs. “Technology improved with tools that measured to parts per billion,” he said.

Integrated pest management programs started in Texas “around 1972. We’ve also seen advances in agricultural mechanization and in reduced-till and no-till equipment.”

He said planting equipment has come a long way from the “buster planters of the 1950s.”