If you took a drive down a country road, you would probably see corn and a lot of it. That is my drive to work every morning. It is a part of life in central Illinois and a scene as familiar as the leaves turning in the fall. Without a doubt, those who have grown up in this region have also heard the phrase “knee-high by the 4th of July.” Let me tell you, I could get lost in a corn field more easily than find one that meets only my knee.
Once the standard for a good corn crop was that it should be as tall at the farmer’s knee by early July. This no longer applies to a modern crop for a variety of reasons ranging from a change in planting date, a change in seed genetics, fertilizer, and increased technology. A central Illinois cornfield in early July can completely conceal my head from view. Head high just doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.
Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden
With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden kernels but a taller crop that is definitely not just knee high. More recently, the traits can be combined with others such as drought and bug resistance in a genetically modified crop that is much hardier and can feed more than ever before.Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.
Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrate the 4th of July, watch the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you won’t be able to see over those big green leaves.
Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrated the 4th of July, I hope you watched the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you wouldn’t be able to see over those big green leaves.
Here at IL Corn we’re all about protecting our state insect by establishing and protecting monarch habitats. Want to learn more and help out? Take the Monarch Challenge.
We love this parody by Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins. Rain IS a big pain all over the Midwest.
On Friday, after leaving IL Corn’s rained out golf outing, I took this quick video (below). You can see clearly see the damaged caused to this corn by standing water and inadequate drainage. The dark spots are higher ground where the corn wasn’t trying to grow in standing water. The lighter green spots are lower ground where the corn is struggling to survive.
Here’s a photo I took today on my way back to the office after lunch. See how the corn is lighter colored where it’s excessively wet?
This damage is everywhere. Farmers are starting to get nervous. THIS is one of the reasons why farming is such a risky business.
Without fail Father’s Day weekend includes two things in my house, a trip to the golf course with friends, their son’s, and my brother for my dad and a trip to the local fairgrounds for the annual local FFA chapter’s livestock show for me. The show is held in remembrance of a young man who passed away far too young. I was too young then to remember much about that time, but I know the family, and I will never miss a chance to support them.
Just like every year for the past six or so, I knew my job without being asked. I was to join the announcer at the stand, help keep track of what was going on and make sure the premiums got handed out to the correct people. As I walked up the show ring being wet with a sprinkler to help settle the dust, I recognized familiar members of the community setting up for their roles as well. It was comforting to be greeted by the people who had watched me grow up at those very fair grounds. I had moved a couple hours away for grad school, yet none of us thought twice about me coming home for the show.
Before long kids and animals filled the ring and our jobs started. Parents held animals for their child in the holding pen so their son or daughter could switch animals between classes. To me, this was all too familiar. I had done this all at 4-H and FFA shows for most of my life. I really hadn’t aged out of the programs that long ago and since then I have volunteered. Suddenly, this show, in particular, had new meaning to me. This is where small town support stood true.
Loyal alumni supported not only their FFA chapter but the family who had lost a beloved son so long ago. Despite the heat that had the men working the show ring sweating, I got the chills. How had nearly twenty years passed yet community support had never wavered? Then it hit me, this is a small town and that is what we do.
While the kids were busy in the ring learning the valuable lessons that could only be learned by handling livestock, the adults helping demonstrated just what those values looked like matured. The students learned about loyalty, hard work, trust, cooperation, manners, and so much more. I felt I was stuck somewhere between the two groups. I’m not ready to call myself an adult at 22 but I certainly was more mature than a high school aged kid pushing a pig around the ring. It didn’t really matter what age category I belonged to, I belonged in that small town that supported the FFA chapter and family that meant so much to me.
What was the show really about? Were we showing livestock or were we upholding social values that had been instilled in us long ago as a showman.
IL Corn Intern
If you live in Illinois and are even remotely involved in agriculture, you have most likely heard the Illinois Association FFA convention took place this week. In the agriculture world, that’s a big deal. It’s more than just tons of high school kids walking around in blue corduroy jackets and dress slacks, it is high school students picking the future leaders of American agriculture.
This time of year, nostalgia hits as I begin to reflect on my own FFA days and what those experiences meant to me. Too often people explain FFA as the former title of “Future Farmers of America”, but that is no longer an accurate description of the organization. FFA provides leadership and growth opportunities for high school youth, even those who don’t want to farm.
Throughout my time in FFA, I learned more about myself than I ever could have in a classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing a classroom education, I wouldn’t be pursuing a Master’s degree right now if I didn’t see the value in it, but I think there is much more to be learned about oneself that can’t be figured out until you enter the real world.
I knew what I wanted to do as a career when I was a sophomore in high school, but I wouldn’t have been able to narrow that down without the experiences that FFA allowed me. I had always enjoyed talking, ask anyone who knows me, but I loved presenting to groups. In FFA I could speak to groups about agriculture and opportunities within it. At this point, I knew I had found my life calling, something I had been born to do.
Not everyone has college aspirations, and that is something else I was able to learn through FFA. There is a shortage of skilled workers in the country and FFA is a place where students can try their hand at these skills. In my own family 3 out of 4 kids were headed straight to a four-year university, but the youngest had a different plan, he wanted to weld. Never for a moment were my parents in the least disappointed in his choice. They knew that his skills as a welder were needed the same as mine as a communicator and my sisters’ as teachers.
We aren’t the only family like this, the only ones whose lives had been shaped by opportunities given to us by FFA. Competitions in FFA range from livestock judging to public speaking, business management to forestry, mechanics to parliamentary procedure, and much more. Students can easily find their niche in at least one Career Development Event (CDE) or become a veteran at competitions like myself. In FFA, you learn it isn’t about winning, but getting to experience a taste of the real world in a way that would otherwise not be possible.
At the 89th Annual Illinois Association State FFA Convention that took place this week, officers were many state level CDE competitions were held. In addition, the new major state officers elected will tour the state over the next year on behalf of both Illinois FFA and agriculture. FFA turns students into leaders and gives those leaders avenues to represent the agriculture industry that they hold near and dear.
IL Corn Intern
Oklahoma State University
[Originally published from BeyondTheBarnDoor]
Summer is here…and how about a reading list for teachers? Whet your summer reading appetite with some YA and Ag Books!
Take some YA and Agriculture to the Beach!
A recent survey found that over half of the audience for Young Adult Literature (YA) are adults! Why not join the ranks and take some YA with you this summer, to the beach, the ballfield or just out to the backyard!
Young Adult Literature includes pieces you probably remember. Huckleberry Finn, The Outsiders, and even Harry Potter are considered YA, and while you might feel guilty or embarrassed about reading books designed for a younger audience, I think the summer is the perfect time to branch out! I believe you’ll find these books entertaining and fast paced. Remember the audience they are geared toward has many more options for spare time entertainment. The books are also well written and tackle tough issues but in a hopeful way. They are typically relatable and many are being made into films or television shows and most are typically shorter.
My choices for YA books with an ag flair for you to use this summer?? Take a gander!
- A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck or anything by Richard Peck!
- ….and now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold 1950’s Newberry Medalist with a sheep theme
- War Horse by Michael Morpugo…great movie, even better book
- Kristina Srpinger’s Just Your Average Princess…. Illinois Author, set in central IL, can’t miss book.
- Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck…life beyond the show ring.
- Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen It is YA….so for the HS crowd and up!
- Crosswire by Dotti Enderle…I read it and saw it as a Walker Texas Ranger Flashback!
- Chigger by Raymond Bial another Illinois Author, I am positive those 40 and 50 somethings will see your childhood!
- Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. A very popular YA author and a Yellow Fever outbreak in colonial times.
- Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee. Nutrition, friendship, a quick read
- Peeled and Squashed by Joan Bauer. Simply great books!
- Seedfolks by Newberry Winner Paul Fleishman. Urban gardening at its finest.
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Certainly some coming of age and civil rights era mixed in with pollinators
- The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins. In the 1980s it was hard work, now it is STEM Careers!
- My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt. Nationa Book Award Winning Author. GREAT Book!
- Taylor Honor Award Winner Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer. Food, Hunger and WWII France.
- Pura Belpre Award Winner Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez. A look at immigrant labor in agriculture.
- National Book Winner The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Wheat and Wheat Harvest. You’re going to hear more about this!
15 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you’ve got 18 books with an ag message that will help you pass the time in the dog days of summer! Check your local library or bookstore for these items!
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom