Why do US corn yields increase? The contributions of genetics, agronomy, and policy instruments
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Much of the future quality of life will depend upon improved abilities to sustainably increase agricultural production while maintaining eco-system services and supporting conservation of natural diversity. Some lessons for the future reside in an improved understanding of the factors that have contributed to increased agricultural productivity during recent past decades. Using US maize production as an example, we demonstrate the critical contributions of plant breeding using native maize germplasm and improved agronomic practices. We outline the policy instruments that condition successful plant breeding through determining access to plant genetic resources and by providing economic incentives for investment and innovation through intellectual property. Maximum progress in improving global agricultural production can only be made when potentially contradictory policies are implemented in a balanced fashion.