Quick quiz, please. Where do you think this photo was taken?
A. North Texas
B. North Carolina
C. North Dakota
D. Northern Iowa
The answer: D. Right in a meaty part of the Corn Belt. This footslope of the field once was a productive Nicollet-Webster soil that's now apparently shot for crop production. I didn't go searching for a story, but spotted this bean field when pulling off the road near my first rest stop on the way to northern Wisconsin last Sunday. I was headed out for a fishing trip, but couldn't help doing a little windshield crop touring along the way.
In general, it seemed to me that there's cause to be concerned about the crops this year, if believing my gut feeling after 350 miles.
Even a fair amount of good cropland in south central Minnesota seemed pretty scraggly--weedy rows, uneven stands and yellowish color. But, you can have that happen any year, even on good land. And, as the route continued northward, scenes of poor crops grew more common.
A farmer friend to whom I later showed the Iowa erosion picture exclaimed, "Why did they even bother?"
Up toward the northwoods, a lot of the corn looked nearly as pathetic as the Iowa beans, even under irrigation on the sandy soils there.
While U.S. corn production has increased by two to four percent annually over the last few years, plantings have expanded by as much as 20% per year in some north central Wisconsin counties.
If you can believe your eyes, this row crop expansion just looks misguided in a land of lakes, forests and grasslands. A lot of the corn simply looks like it's out of place. Which is the definition of a weed, now that I think about it.
And if we can destroy soil productivity in Iowa, what's to become of the more fragile land on the ragged edges of the Corn Belt?