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This Desert Corn is Green

This Desert Corn is Green

In the shadow of saguaro and cholla cactus a cornfield is flourishing with a foreign seed – all the way from Iowa.  But it might as well be a different country for the transplanted grain, a long way from its usual wetter Midwestern home.

This corn isn’t for eating, but for studying.  The goal is to understand how to grow better, more pest-resistant corn.  And it takes up a tidy plot on the corner of one of the busies streets in Tucson, Arizona, Campbell Avenue, where the University of Arizona has its agricultural farm.

The plot is green and tall and nearly mature.  Pollination, say entomologist researchers, is 90 percent complete.  Planted in March, the corn needs to reach maturity quickly because the heat – anything over 86 degrees – puts a halt to its growth.  In the middle of summer, with days reaching 110 degrees in the Sonoran desert, the corn only grows at night.

The entomology department is just across this busy street, which makes monitoring simpler.  The corn is being grown to test its viability with different species of insect pests.

“It’s great to have the Campbell farm because we can work on interactions between insects and plants without going very far,” said Yves Carriere, an entomologist in the UA Department of Entomology. “With corn from fields there, we are experimenting with protecting corn and sustaining resistance to insects.”

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