Posts Tagged: Corn
As the alfalfa hay harvest season wraps up and we get in gear to attend the November 2017 Western Alfalfa and Forage Symposium in Reno, NV, we're...
Mark your calendar for Thursday September 5th and plan to join fellow growers, PCAs, and seed and chemical company reps at our annual Alfalfa and...
Along with gardening, I have an interest in American history, and combining the two can lead me to hours and hours of exploring and research. I grew up in Santa Rosa and visited Luther Burbank's garden many times. I've been privileged to meet people who knew him and relish in their personal stories and memories. Mr. Burbank's imprint in the botany world has much effect on our current day planting and output.
A fascinating piece of American gardening/history is the legend and practical application of The Three Sisters. Variations of this legend can be found in the ethos of many American Indian tribes, but is primarily attributed to the Iroquois. It is a wonderful example of companion planting and has proven to be one of the most effective techniques ever developed in gardening and farming. This method was was used by Native Americans then later taught to the early European settlers and is still used by many farmers and home growers today.
One version of the legend goes like this:
A long time ago, three sisters lived together in a field. These sisters were quite different from on another in their height and in the way they carried themselves. The little sisters was so young and round that she could only crawl at first and she was dressed in green. The second sister wore a bright sunshine yellow dress, and she would spend many an hour reading by herself, sitting in the sun with the soft wind blowing against her face. The eldest sister, standing always very straight and tall above the other, looking for danger and warning her siblings. She wore a pale green shawl and had dirty yellow hair. There was one way the sisters were all alike, though. They loved each other dearly, and they always stayed together. This made them very strong.
One day a strange bird came to the field; a crow. He talked to the horses and other animals, and this caught the attention of the sisters. Late that summer, the youngest and smallest sister disappeared. Her sisters were sad. Again the crow came to the field to gather reeds at the water's edge. The sisters who were left watched his trail as he was leaving, and that night the second sister, the one in the yellow dress, disappeared. Now the eldest sister was the only one left. She continued to stand tall. When the crow saw how she missed her sisters, he brought them all back together and they became stronger together again. The elder sister stands tall looking out for the crow to this very day. (Shelia Wilson, member of the Sappony Tribe)
The practicalities go like this:
The first sister is corn. She grows tall and provides a pole for the beans which shore up the corn stalks and leave behind nitrogen for the soil. The third sister, squash, shades the bed from weeds and helps the soil retain moisture. Some seed catalogs actually sell packets of three seeds together along with specific directions on how to plant. The method used by Native Americans for hundreds and hundreds of years is still the recommended method.
On June 3, 2011, Cherokee White Eagle corn, Rattlesnake pole beans, and Seminole squash seeds, all donated by the National Museum of the American Indian, were planted at the White House Kitchen Garden by a group of American Indian and Alaska Native youth. According to the First Lady, Michelle Obama, "It turned out to be one of our most successful plantings in the garden."
In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Colin Carter, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, and Henry Miller, a physician and a fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at the Hoover Institution, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could divert vast amounts of corn from inefficient ethanol production back into the food chain.
"The price of corn is a critical variable in the world food equation, and food markets are on edge because American corn supplies are plummeting," they wrote. "The combination of the drought and American ethanol policy will lead in many parts of the world to widespread inflation, more hunger, less food security, slower economic growth and political instability, especially in poor countries."
Carter also spoke about the issue on the Capital Public Radio program Insight. He said the rising corn prices will likely have the biggest impact in California on feed lot operators who feed corn and soybean meal to cattle. Dairies will also be hit very hard.
A USDA official was in Oakland yesterday to promote the development of renewable fuel infrastructure in the United States, according to a news release from Propel Fuels. The federal agency plans to fund the build-out of 10,000 renewable fuel pumps across the nation in the next five years.
Judith Canales, administrator of USDA's Rural Business and Cooperative Programs, spoke at a press conference held at a gas station where customers can purchase E85 Flex Fuel and biodiesel from Redwood City-based Propel Fuels.
A story produced by KGO-TV in San Francisco said high fuel prices came at a perfect time for Propel, whose biofuel business is booming.
"What we are trying to do is focus on fuels that are domestically made, and fuels that could contribute to American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Propel executive Jim Iacoponi told KGO reporter Wayne Freedman.
Most American-made biofuel is produced with corn. Corn is high in starch, but low in sugars, making it less efficient for making fuel than foreign sugar cane. But high U.S. tariffs make corn a viable alternative.
In the news story, UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller attributed some of the interest in corn to presidential politics.
"Well, it's Iowa," Muller said. "In order to win the Iowa caucuses go to Iowa and promise they will support corn ethanol."
At the news conference, Canales said corn will only be part of the solution.
In the U.S., there are more than 20 million vehicles (more than 1 million of those in California) capable of running on renewable fuels, but the majority do not have access to these fuels. Propel has plans to build 75 additional stations in the Bay Area and Sacramento, as well as in new markets later this year, the news release said.
USDA's Judith Canales fuels a CalTrans vehicle that runs on biofuel.