Minnesota Farmer


Mankind, shaping the world around him.
December 10, 2011, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Corn, dogs, history, weather | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve recently been in a conversation on technology in agriculture with another blogger that has started me thinking of all the way we humans shape the land, plants and the animals around us.  Humans are the only creature that has affected so many parts of the world that they live in.  Our actions have been far reaching, but they are not all recent.

We wonder at the modern marvels man produces, but some of his greatest marvels are not at all recent.

Perhaps the most changed animal on the earth is the dog.  The dog most likely started out as a small wolf like animal.  Once it took up residence with man, he began to shape it’s destiny.  Today the multitude of dog forms from huge to tiny can all trace their way back to that same ancestor.  And yet, if the dog was allowed to live in the wild, it would return to something very like its ancestor.  We have created an artificial creature, in an artificial environment to meet our needs.  Truly amazing.

Man’s shaping of plants is no less amazing.  For millions of years mankind has chosen the best of the plants around him, nurtured and protected them, and changed them.  Perhaps the most changed is Zea Maize, what is known as corn in the U.S.  Maize comes in many forms, some suited to different climates, some to different uses.  When people in the U.S. think of corn they usually think of sweet corn, that wonderful vegetable of summer.  Another type of corn they think of is pop corn, a theater snack and household staple of the pantry.  There is also, flint corn, pod corn, and the most common of all, dent corn.

Dent corn is the most misunderstood of the corn types.  It is mainly used for animal feed, and as an industrial feed stock.  One of its larger uses in recent times is for the production of ethanol.  Dent corn itself is amazingly flexible.  It can be changed easily by mixing specialized stocks to fill all kinds of industrial needs.  It is also one of the easiest plants to bio-engineer.  Despite all of this, dent corn will readily mix with other corn types and revert back to something more like what the Europeans found when they came to the Americas.

Mankind has shaped the land, sometimes to his detriment, by pushing back water and digging out minerals.  We have done so much to shape  the world, but like the dog, and maize, if mankind turns his back, it will go wild again.  When we are most comfortable, there will be an earthquake, volcano or flood to remind us that we live in a wild world.  Just thinking.

Michael

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