Tuesday, November 3, 2015

rogue cornstalks flutter

rogue cornstalks flutter
above a field of rattling
soybeans ripe for harvest

Driving after dark on our back country road, we see monstrous bright lights in the fields, combines harvesting hybrid corn and soybeans. This morning I pass a field of soybeans, their monochrome brown punctuated by rogue cornstalks sticking up like standards in a battlefield. 
          Kernels from the ears of hybrid corn are not used as seed because the offspring of these plants do not resemble their cross-bred parents. Nevertheless, some kernels from last year's corn crop have managed to survive harvesting, harrowing, freezing, tilling and the planting of soybeans to pop up at random in an otherwise unvarying landscape.

In another field planted with corn, the stalks form dense rows of rustling dry leaves. Farmers in this area grow two cash crops, corn and soybeans. They usually rotate the two crops on their fields in alternate years. This is because grass crops such as corn are unable to take nitrogen from the air, so they need nitrogen in the soil. Legume crops such as soybeans have bacteria on nodules on their roots which take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil. So the corn planted the following year is able to use the nitrogen provided by the soybeans. 
          Of course, many farmers also add chemical fertilizers containing nitrogen to the soil. Farmers who maintain large hog contained animal feeding operations (CAFO) will collect the swine manure in pits and then spread it on fields. However, pig manure is very low in nitrogen as well as incredibly stinky!

This field was harvested all night, ahead of a rainstorm. Both corn and soybeans must be quite dry in order to be stored in silos and transported by rail. But rain after a harvest is welcome for refreshing the parched soil for next year's crop. 

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