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Suburban corn field yielding more than bushels

There are many parts of Ohio that are seeing acres and acres of housing developments and commerce pop up where corn and soybeans once grew. Urban sprawl is just a part of life in today’s society. But, set between Dublin Jerome High School and more land being developed for a new community, things are headed in the opposite direction in a 30 foot by 20 foot corn field. This small plot of land in the middle of suburbia is a test lab that was created earlier this year by teacher Chuck Crawford, who caught the bug for teaching agriculture in his classroom from attending the Agriculture Biotechnology Academy, hosted by The Ohio Soybean Council and DuPont Pioneer.

“That program taught me and other teachers across the state more about the ag industry and I knew I had to get my kids involved,” said Crawford, who’s is also a network leader for The Ohio Soybean Council’s Grow Next Gen program. “Today really brings this project full circle as my students from my AP Environmental Science class are out here learning how to shell corn and take yield calculations. This is a very unique experience for them and I am sure this is something they will never forget.”

IMG_7041 (800x533)Crawford was so passionate about this test plot that once he was given the okay to get started earlier this spring, he cleared the land, which sits on a high-voltage easement, of honeysuckle, thorn bushes and tree stumps. Once the land was ready and plowed with equipment Crawford borrowed from his friends and family, it was time to plant.

“We put in 12 rows of corn and 12 rows of soybeans and at that time people were very skeptical,” Crawford said. “But we proved it could be done and that will help move this project along for many years to come. That will allow us to test other scenarios, like the study of biochemical processes, nutrients, sustainability and so on.”

The students, who have checked on these fields for months now, were just as excited as their teacher to get into the field and see just how well the corn performed. For most, taking measurements straight from the field or even holding an ear of corn was something they have never done before.

IMG_7067 (800x561)“I did not expect my day to include shelling corn,” said Gabe Penegor, Dublin Jerome Senior. “It’s cool to see something that you have put so much time into come to fruition and get to handle it and figure out all of the aspects of it like volume, mass and yield of the kernels. There is a lot more work that goes into this than just planting corn and watching it grow and we are finding out that there are many more uses for corn besides just eating it.”

The testing that these students are doing will result in protein tests, yield calculations and then later in the year the chance to make ethanol from the corn harvested from their field. This modest corn field will also facilitate important conversations about GMOs and the ever-growing challenge of feeding a hungry planet.

“Sometimes people don’t always have the right opportunities to learn as much information as they can about a topic,” said Rebekah Peck, communications manager with DuPont Pioneer’s Eastern Business Unit, the supplier of the varieties used for this project. “We hope that this is a way that some of these students, who may otherwise not be exposed to agriculture, may be able to take something away from this and maybe even have an interest in an agricultural career in the near future.”

Over the growing season, this small field has allowed for some interesting conversations with Crawford and adult members of this community as well, as it sits right next to a bike trail.

“It’s interesting how many passers-by will stop and ask what this corn field is all about and it has been received very well from that standpoint,” Crawford said. “People are starting to realize how great of an opportunity this is for the kids, which is what this is all about.”

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