Pictures from a walk in the rain around the village last week, showing how fast the maize is growing in some of the fields, with the corncobs developing well. Difficult to get good shots with the lens getting wet and having to dry it constantly, but the rain did ease off now and again, and I did enjoy myself even if I got soaked.
Your photographs show that it is still good to get out into the countryside even in the rain. I have a query regarding the Maize. Several years ago while walking in Lincolnshire I “borrowed” a couple of cobs from a farmer’s field and when I arrived home, boiled them up looking forward to a meal. They were completely inedible! I was later informed that there is possibly two strains of Maize, one for human consumption and another for animal fodder. Could this be true?
Hello Trevor. It seems as if your your friend is right. There are all sorts of uses for maize, and presumably cultivated varieties that suit each purpose. Here are a couple of links that you might find interesting. I certainly had no idea how versatile a crop maize is, or how controversial it was as a crop. I just Googled ‘maize grown for fodder UK’: https://www.countryfile.com/countryfile-tv-show/countryfile-presenters/adam-henson-the-rise-of-maize-in-the-uk/ http://www.gpfeeds.co.uk/ebooks/maize_a_growers_guide/files/forage%20maize%20technical%20guide%202011.pdf
Here in the USA a lot of corn ( as we say) is grown. Virtually all of it is animal feed or, in the enormous fields of the Midwest, for ethanol. Corn for eating is a whole different industry. I know where I am in Pennsylvania it’s all animal feed. Small farmers grow some for consumption and sell it locally. Fresh corn doesn’t travel well or last. ( people here swear by corn from New Jersey, it travels only a couple of hours to our table). I remember as a child visiting my grandparents in Illinois (corn being a major crop) and the immense boredom of the long drive in summer on roads that were essentially a tunnel through endless fields of corn!The saying being if the corn was knee high by the 4th of July it would be a good crop. Sorry to go on so much but corn is a big thing here and I think my child hood experiences have made me interested in it!
Thank you for your information, Claudia. It is always so interesting to learn more about something I have posted, and how things are so different where you live. As you say, corn is a big thing in North America, and it seems to be coming more important here too.
You’re welcome. As I was thinking about it I fell into thinking about all my associations with growing corn, and I am just a suburbanite, not a farmer! One thing I have noticed in the past few years, how the roots of the mature corn plant start somewhat above the ground’s surface, reaching in and grabbing like little fingers. That, and how much closer together they seem to plant the stalks than they did when I was young.
That is a really interesting observation, Claudia. Doing a quick search through the literature on maize planting, there could be several explanations for the changes you are noticing. Apparently, growing maize with its large plants, widely spaced apart, is a major contributor to soil erosion. There is nothing growing in the soil between the rows to stop the soil particles being removed in heavy rainfall or even wind. For years there has been standard recommendation for the planting of the seeds at certain distances between seeds in the row, and between rows, for maximum crop yield dependent on soil type. I think it could be possible that growing seeds (and maybe the rows as well) closer together is an attempt to reduce soil erosion. But the maize plant is very shallow rooting. And planting seeds close together increases competition between plants for resources and lowers the overall crop yield. At the same time the roots are in competition with each other for growing space, and the soils may have already been thinned by previous maize growing and associated soil erosion, hence the roots being evident above the soil surface. There is also another possibility, that farmers are planting more than one seed per drill hole in order to prevent gaps in the rows when seeds occasionally fail to germinate. This only works to the farmer’s advantage when surplus young plants are removed after germination. However, I would image that the latter strategy is not a practical proposition in the US given the vast areas under maize cultivation.
I’ve heard that they plant the corn closer now for the reasons you mention, higher yield and lower weed appearances. I know around here they rotate the corn with soy, usually – I think this combo is supposed to help with soil composition. I personally wish we saw more crops besides these two but these seem to be what sell and that is why of course the farmers are growing them. I remember in my younger days corn was taller, too – I have read they have strains now that put their effort into producing ears rather than tall stalks. So having shorter stouter stalks may also seem more crowded to me now. One detail I remember from my childhood – as we drove along I used to like to see the signs by the fields of what strain was being grown – in the Midwest the farmers always had identifiers of what was in the field, I think sponsored by the seed manufacturer and/or whoever might be studying crop yields (usually the state university, as most state u’s were originally founded to advance the study of agriculture and they all have ag departments even into today that at some u’s like Penn State, in a big ag state, are large and offering many areas of study.
Hi, Claudia. I wonder if soy as the rotational crop adds nitrogen back into the soil. It is obvious that corn is much more a part of the culture where you live than here in Britain. I do not remember seeing it in the fields many years ago when I was younger. I think it was only grown on a small scale for human consumption – corn on the cob. It is unfortunate that maize is such a useful crop while apparently at the same time being a crop that has unwanted outcomes like soil degradation and, for example, milk and meat from animals fed on maize are said to be less nutritious.
You may have heard of the Three Sisters planting scheme used by ancient peoples in the Americas – corn, squash, beans. This traditional way of combining crops benefited the people and the soil. I guess today it is too labor intensive. This weekend we were in Delaware, about 100 miles southwest of my home, and all I saw were fields and fields of corn and soy. With some industrial chicken farming thrown in. Things sure have changed since my young days.
Hi, Claudia. No, I hadn’t heard about the Three Sisters planting scheme. I am thinking that crop rotation has been practised in European countries for a long time too. It still is. I have noticed how the crops around the village are rarely the same for a particular field two years in succession. We have had fields of barley, wheat, oats, linseed, oilseed rape, field peas, soya, hay/silage crops and maize rotating over the years. The local landscape does not lend itself to the type of large fields seen in America, and so I suppose it is less prone to monoculture. In addition to the cultivated crops, some years cattle are reared and that helps fertilise the soil too.
The situation you describe is more how I remember the growing scenes of my younger days. Smaller fields, all kinds of crops. It was common to see people selling produce from pickup trucks on the road from their own fields (my grandmother kept bushel baskets at hand in case she wanted to stop – she did a lot of canning). This was in Tennessee, but I think it was the same in PA and NJ area where I am now. These days, all you see is corn and soy. Cattle living outside is a rarity – they are fed grains vs. grazing. I don’t like to think about how chickens are raised now. I wish things could be different.
Your comments about your Mother buying produce from the roadside reminds me of my own parents who delighted in buying from farm shops. Mostly it is small farm shops these days that sell direct to the public. The kinds of things they sell are extremely varied and they often have a cafe and offer accommodation. Washingpool Farm (https://www.washingpool.co.uk/farming) near Bridport about 17 miles from Charlton Down is a good example.
This is interesting. I wish I could go stay there. I have seen similar things around here – even though we are in a metro area of about 5 million people you do not have to go far out to find farms – maybe an hour or so. In our area it’s farmers’ markets that do most of the direct sales to the public. Here is one that is very well organized: http://www.swarthmorefarmersmarket.org/ – but there are lots, some of them pretty informal (my closest one takes place on Saturdays in the train station parking lot).
Thanks Claudia. It is always interesting to hear first hand how other people live. Often, as a tourist, the visit is too brief to take in all the details of everyday life such as the local markets.
OOps, forgot to say, I think the soy corn rotation idea is that the soy will help augment the depleted nitrogen, as you thought.