Pop Quiz: Corn

Corn is used in a wide array of items we use every day—from medicines and soda to cosmetics and toothpaste. How much of the corn grown in the US is used to produce ethanol, a biofuel that’s blended into gasoline to reduce emissions and improve air quality?

A yellow corn cob grows on a stalk in a field

© Shutterstock

You’re right—40%

It’s hard to imagine a summer cookout or night at the movies without corn. Also known as maize, this golden grain is the second largest crop in the world—number one in the US. Most corn is grown in the US, where it covers an average of 90 million acres of land annually. More than one-third of those crops are cultivated in the Corn Belt, which includes Illinois, Iowa, and neighboring states.

Corn is a standard ingredient in many household products, foods, and beverages. But one of corn’s main uses—making ethanol to power our vehicles—is driving destructive land-use change in already vulnerable grasslands.

In 202, 1.6 million acres of grassland habitat was lost to agricultural conversion in the Great Plains in 2021, 18% of which was plowed up for corn crops.

One critical protection for US grasslands is the Farm Bill, which helps farmers, ranchers, and forest owners meet sustainability goals. In 2023, WWF championed several updates to the bill, providing recommendations to Congress aimed at ending habitat conversion, preventing food loss and waste, and protecting threatened wildlife.

Learn more about corn.