So Far, This Corn Defies the Drought
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Don Comis, (301) 504-1625, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 11, 1999
Despite soil-parching drought, green sweet-corn plants tower six feet above
protective organic mulch in a cornfield in Beltsville, Md. Nearby, corn
planted in bare soil won't be worth harvesting. Both fields are at the
Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center (BARC), part of the
Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief scientific agency.
Key to sustaining the corn through the drought is hairy vetch, a legume
grown as a cover crop. The vetch--killed before researchers planted the
corn--forms a dense mat. It helps rain or irrigation water seep in rather
than flow across fields and erode the soil. The mulch also slows evaporation
and supplies natural nitrogen fertilizer.
The 7,000-acre BARC now uses hairy vetch to grow much of the corn needed for
its livestock. The researchers have already developed vetch systems for
tomatoes--now being adopted by some growers--and are testing similar cover
crops with peppers, cantaloupes, snap beans and other vegetables.
Organic mulch is vital to the center's program in sustainable
agriculture--that is, farming in ways both economical and environmentally
friendly, and relying on renewable, on-farm resources.
That's why biodiesel is the newest contribution to Beltsville's
seven-year-old sustainable farming program. Beginning this month, biodiesel,
a mix of 20 percent soybean oil and 80-percent regular diesel fuel, will
power all farm and road crew diesel vehicles on the center's 6,000-acre east
side. Researchers will compare the two fuels for engine performance and
wear. The program is part of a federal effort to reduce reliance on
petroleum while creating new markets for U.S. crops. A fact sheet on the
center's biodiesel use is on the web at:
Scientific contact: Ronald F. Korcak, ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research
Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-5193, fax (301) 504-5863,
This item is one of the news releases and story leads that ARS Information
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* ARS Information Staff, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD
20705-5128, (301) 504-1617, fax 504-1648.
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