Agriculture in the U.S. and China: The Present and the Future

In part because of current events involving a high-profile trade dispute, agriculture in the U.S. and China has been thrown into a spotlight. Furthermore, according to Dr. Wendong Zhang, Assistant Professor of Economics and Extension Economist for Iowa State University, this long-standing relationship between the two countries promises to get even more complicated in the years ahead – especially if the current tariff war between both remains in place for any length of time.

Dr. Wendong Zhang, Iowa State University

Dr. Wendong Zhang, Iowa State University


Speaking at the annual meeting of the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) in Des Moines, IA, this past September, Zhang pointed out many of the key differences that currently exists when comparing agricultural realities in both the U.S. and China. In terms of crop mix, many Chinese growers plant the same key crops that U.S. growers do – corn, cotton, and soybeans, for instance. But according to Zhang, crop yields in China are have been significantly lower historically than those for their U.S. counterparts.

“Chinese corn yields are perhaps two-thirds as high as those in the U.S.,” he said. “Soybean yields are roughly half, with the average Chinese farmer getting around 26 bushels per acre soybean yield compared with 48 bushels per acre in the U.S.”

According to Zhang, there are many factors that are currently working against Chinese growers achieving higher yields like their U.S. counterparts. This includes traditionally dealing with more adverse climate conditions in China (particularly in the Western part of the country) and having less nutrient-rich soil to work with to grow their crops.