This week I'm joining in the fun with a few other ag bloggers and answering a question about agriculture. We were told it could be anything you have ever been asked relating to farming and it can be as simple or as complex as possible. Well, I feel like there is no such thing as a silly question, especially when it comes to the big world of ag. There is so much to know and understand and the best way to have your questions answered is to talk to someone who does it for a living. The question that I have chosen to answer, I wasn't asked personally. I read it in a magazine a while back and I can't recall exactly which one. The person was heading to Myrtle Beach with their family for vacation. During their drive, they noticed several fields of "dying" corn and soybeans. Their question was, "Why do farmers spend so much time, money and energy planting the crops only to leave them out in the field to die?"
I guess I never really gave it much thought, but to some people it does appear that we are abandoning them. Crops in the field are different from the plants in your garden. Only about 1% of the corn crop in Indiana is sweet corn. The rest is field corn. Sweet corn is harvested when the plant is still green. Field corn has to spend quite a bit of time drying down before it can be harvested. Instead of the sweet, milky goodness of sweet corn you enjoy in the summer, field corn is very hard when it is harvested.
When we begin harvesting corn, we test the moisture. This is measured in percentages. When the corn is hauled into the elevator if the moisture is above 15.5% then we are docked in the price. Which basically means, we will get less for our, say, 18% corn that someone with 15.5% corn. So, the corn can either dry down in the field, weather permitting or it can be harvested and stored in bins with a fan or it can be ran through a grain dryer. (I wish I had a picture of the dryer, but I don't)
The same thing goes for beans except the moisture can't go above 13%. We do not run beans through a dryer like we do corn, so if we need it to, it goes in a grain bin with a fan.
So, while I guess the plants are dead, or appear to be...we will harvest them;)