Field of Science

Biodiversity in the maize and soybean desert

TPP has long joked about living in the maize and soybean desert of the upper midwest. Sadly this does a grave injustice to deserts because even the harshest desert has more biodiversity than our agricultural fields. 200 years ago this was tall grass prairie which has a surprising and substantial biodiversity and this same grassland community built some of the richest soil in the world. Here in Lincolnland the tall grass prairie is all but gone, less than 1% remains, and it was largely displaced by maize, and later soybeans. In a photoessay of the world's biodiversity, David Liittschwager would document all the biodiversity in a one-cubic foot volume found in a day. In a Costa Rican rain forest, 150 different species were found in his one-cubic-foot placed in the canopy of a strangler fig tree. And all over the world he found surprising biodiversity, and it's mostly surprising because humans pay very little attention to the little organisms. But in a maize field here in north central Lincolnland he got quite a different surprise. Sadly, he found nothing, nothing but maize. In our zeal, in our passion, in our desire for maize, our agricultural methods have come as close as possible to creating a complete monoculture. It's no wonder that more wildlife lives in our cities and towns than outside the city limits because out there it's a biological wasteland, except for crops.  This represents nature bent entirely to human will, and again because little attention is paid to this, it's been estimated based on measurements here and there, that half of this marvelous prairie soil is gone, and so is the community that made it. So how smart are humans anyways? Do you need a crystal ball to see what the future may bring?

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