In Iowa: An ode to the beauty of corn

  • Photo

People say Iowa has a monotonous landscape with fields of corn from horizon to horizon.

It’s true: In Iowa, corn is what there is to look at.

It’s rare that something as ubiquitous as corn in Iowa would be so pleasing to the eye, and it would be easy to take it for granted, as most of us probably do.

But whatever else you might think about corn, it looks good this time of year.

We all know that corn raised on tile-drained land is prone to leak nitrates into surface water and that many believe nutrient pollution cannot be satisfactorily controlled as long as we devote nearly half the state to the cultivation of corn and soybeans.

But corn’s serious shortcomings do not preclude enjoyment of its beauty.

Engorged with nitrogen, standing at full height, 32,000 uniformly spaced stalks to the acre, its gracefully curved leaves shimmering whether in sun or shadow, corn is never prettier than it is now.

Its deep, rich, vibrant leaves say “green” a little more intensely than anything else on the landscape — greener than grass or gourds, greener than Green Bay or Greenwich Village, greener possibly than the Emerald Isle or the Emerald City in Oz.

With corn covering about 36 percent of the state’s surface, you won’t have to drive far to see it, and if you avoid cities you can drive indefinitely without ever losing sight of it.

On a narrow blacktop with 10-foot-tall stalks crowding the right of way on either side, you can almost get a corn canyon effect with nothing visible but green walls and blue ceiling.

A good-looking cornfield, pleasing to the eye in its own right, also underscores the expertise of those who grow it, which enhances the viewing pleasure of anyone who has ever suffered setbacks in attempts to grow flowers, vegetables or lawns.

Admiration of a perfect field of corn evokes appreciation of the skill and care entailed in planting millions of seeds at precisely the right time and depth, accompanied by the faith that substantial investments of time and money will not be undone by unfavorable weather.

While the authors of those fields will continue to admire their handiwork as the season progresses, their preternaturally green beauty soon will fade, diluted first by the emergence of billions of yellowish tassels and later as the maturing ears suck the color from the stalks.

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.