The Mystery of the Withered Corn

At this time of the year, you see it in many rural areas; farm fields with rows of corn awaiting harvest. All summer the corn has been growing and now it is ready. You can see long rows of dry brown corn everywhere.

Flickriver: Photoset 'Mesopotamia, Ohio (Amish Country #1) ' by Don ...

So why not harvest the stuff? Why let it stand all withered and lifeless in the field? A few weeks ago, the corn looked great; all green stalks and lush leaves. Why wasn’t it harvested then? Why leave all that beautiful corn to die and dry out in the field? I have pondered this question for years. It seemed to make no sense. Get the stuff while it is fresh! But every year, the corn was not harvested until it stood dry brown and lifeless. What was going on? Maybe it was a scheduling problem with the combine harvesters, or maybe the weather, or maybe…

Finally, I asked a farmer. The answer was both simple and logical; Corn, like many farm products, is harvested by harvester machines that cut the stalks, separate the corn, then grind up the stalks and leaves and shoot the chaff out the back. In order for the machinery to be effective, though, the corn stalks have to be dry and brittle. If there is too much moisture, the ground-up stalks and leaves clump up in wet globs that clog up the blades and can’t be blown out.  The driver has to stop frequently and clean out the whole system. Trying to harvest corn when it is still on green stalks is an exercise in futility. So, if you see what look like rows of dead corn, now you know why.

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