From: Yale Environment 360
Published November 28, 2017 12:11 PM

Where Corn Is King, the Stirrings of a Renaissance in Small Grains

To the untrained eye, Jeremy Gustafson’s 1,600-acre farm looks like all the others spread out across Iowa. Gazing at his conventional corn and soybean fields during a visit in June, I was hard-pressed to say where his neighbor’s tightly planted row crops ended and Gustafson’s began.

But what distinguished this vast farm in Boone, Iowa, was a thin, 16-acre strip of oats Gustafson had planted in a loop around the barn. At the time, the chest-high oats were at the “milk stage.” When Gustafson squeezed the grains embedded in the feathery grass between his thumb and forefinger, they released a tiny dollop of white liquid, a sign that they would be ready to harvest in about a month.

Oats and other “small grains” like rye and triticale stand out in Iowa — the nation’s number one producer of corn, a crop that covered more than 90 million U.S. acres in 2016 and was worth more than $51 billion. As is the case all over the Corn Belt, most Iowa corn is planted in rotation with another ubiquitous crop: soybeans. That Gustafson is willing to plant something other than corn and soy in Iowa makes him an outlier.

“I’m doing this for the soil,” says Gustafson, 40, and that’s a bigger deal than it may sound.

Read more at Yale Environment 360

Image: A farmer examines a rye cover crop planted within a field of soybeans in Midburn, Iowa. (Credit: TWILIGHT GREENAWAY/FERN/YALE E360)

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

2018©. Copyright Environmental News Network