Saturday, August 04, 2012

US Hwy 30: Corn Report

It's not obvious in the photos I've posted recently, but there really is a serious drought in effect around here. I've heard that corn is involved in about 80% of the overall food supply, so a severely damaged corn crop is sure to have profound implications going forward. I'm certainly no expert on corn, but I'm sure this doesn't look good.

Speaking of corn -- which everyone around here is doing a lot of these days -- I learned a few things in conversation during a nice dinner I had last night at a surprisingly good local joint called the Green Lantern. Sitting at the bar, I struck up my usual lively conversation with several delightful local folks, including one man who is a farmer. In addition to gaining a little insight about the effects of drought at different stages of the plants' growth, I was able to ask about a couple of things I'd seen that were a bit of a mystery to me.

The first explains why I saw some corn that had received what I referred to as a "haircut." It's actually called "detasseling" which removes the pollen-producing flowers -- the tassels -- from the tops of corn. It is a part of pollination control, used especially to cross-breed or hybridize two varieties of corn.

The second has to do with what I called "missing rows" at a far greater frequency than I could attribute to mechanical failure in the planting process. If I understand correctly, there are distinct male and female corn plants, with every fifth row being the males. By leaving out that row, the females can be cross-pollenated in a controlled manner for the specific hybridizing that is desired.

Besides reminding me that botany is so obviously my weakest science, these factoids also served to explain why I'd seen so many placards with different numbers positioned at the ends of various corn rows. Hybridizing is a big part of the corn agri-business, and the "scientists" are always trying different combinations. As the farmer described it from his perspective, "They mix and match our crops, stick numbers on them, get lucky with a cross-breed, then sell us back the seeds at higher prices." I still don't know much about corn, but that's certainly a way of doing business that I understand completely!

So, there's your corn report from the ongoing Voyages of Macgellan!

I'm about to head into the town of Onawa, IA, to do some exploring… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved your corn report... Very interesting!

Moreso, love you are still out exploring the world and reporting your findings, following your dream.