USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service sends employees around the world to study and report on global crop conditions, with the information used in the monthly world supply and demand estimates. World Agricultural Outlook Board Chair Gerald Bange says this international travel leads to some unique discoveries that could benefit agriculture in our country and around the world in the future.
“Our traveler in South Africa did encounter a fairly large field of multi-stem corn which we had not seen that before”, corn that can produce four to five ears per stem, but Bange says that there is a tradeoff to this approach…”those plants were planted considerably further apart than what we see with domestic production with relatively tight rows and close spacing.” Bange adds that the practice is intriguing enough that future study on the multi-stem corn and it’s origins is warranted…”it’s the first time we’ve seen it certainly in any kind of commercial setting, we’ll pursue it further to see just what it may have been.
Meanwhile a visit to Brazil revealed a unique practice…’they’re going to a shorter season of soybean which enables them to follow that in some cases with corn. About the same time they plant the corn, they plant some type of grass between the rows, they have both grass and corn growing in the same field. The theory is that when they harvest the corn then they will turn the animals in, the cattle in to graze on the grass that they planted.”
Why is this? Bange says to benefit soybeans planted prior to corn as part of the rotation…”one of the benefits to that, apparently, is that it does help with regard to nematode control on their soybean crop, so they get a benefit from that, too. So, it’s kind of an interesting turn of events to see how they’re interspersing their crops.”
Meanwhile, Bange says that FAS and other USDA officials will continue their global travels and they expect to keep finding new discoveries regarding agriculture, or as he puts it…”sometimes you see things you don’t really expect to see.”