Are farmers underachieving when it comes to corn production?

University of Illinois corn guru Fred Below doesn’t use those words exactly, but he points to national corn yield contest winners to illustrate how much potential today’s corn genetics offer.

"There’s a huge yield gap between the yields most growers get and what is possible," says Below, a plant physiology professor at the University of Illinois.

Last year, the winning yield in every category of the National Corn Growers Association yield contest exceeded 300 bushels per acre. Six winners topped 400 bushels per acre, and the overall winner surpassed 500 bushels per acre.

It’s easy to dismiss those yields as unrealistic in "real-world" situations, but the contest winners offer a few...