Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crops Affected by Flood Purple Corn Plants Appear in Fields Covered in 1993

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crops Affected by Flood Purple Corn Plants Appear in Fields Covered in 1993

Article excerpt

When green shoots of corn began pushing through the rich soil along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers this spring, farmers could take pleasure in their first crop since floodwaters had drowned the land.

And then the small stalks of corn began to darken and wither, turning a deep purple - the flood's latest legacy.

"First thing I thought was, `Gosh, we were flooded out last year, and now nothing's going to grow this year. We're going to lose two crops,"' said Larry Baker, who farms the bottomlands along the Mississippi River near Quincy.

The purple fades after two weeks or so, leaving a healthy green in its place. But the afflicted plants are still small, and no one knows whether that will mean poor yields when the corn is harvested.

"A lot of things this year we're not explaining very well because we don't know," said University of Illinois extension agent Mike Roegge. "It's been an interesting year, to say the least."

Purple corn isn't the only problem left from the flood.

Before they could worry about planting, farmers had to clear debris - everything from logs to washing machines - from the fields. Some land, especially in Southern Illinois, has been covered in so much sand that it can't be farmed.

Farmers who lost homes or equipment sheds in the flood have an extra problem: Federal rules place some restrictions on what can be rebuilt and how. That means some farmers must store their equipment miles away from their fields.

But the flood's most common after-effect has to be the purple corn.

Everything from cool weather to pests to weaknesses among different corn varieties can cause discoloration by interfering with the corn's ability to draw phosphorus from the ground. But this purple is different.

"It was a more intense purple, it lasted longer, and it was more than one variety," Roegge said. …

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