Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Saving the Planet Experiment- Weeks #5 and #6

by student blogger Kristin

Welcome back to my “Saving the Planet” Experiment! I know I skipped a week again but as the plants grow taller they are also growing at a slower rate which means not a lot of blogging material. That being said, however, I had an epiphany this past weekend.

I was hanging out with a friend who just so happens to be in my Ecology of Food class and is conducting this same experiment. During a pause in the conversation of the evening he asked me “Hey, how are your plants doing?” I went on to explain some of the failures and successes that I had experienced with the corn so far. I told him of the quick first growth, the devastating root rot, and the progress of my two remaining corn stalks. I, of course, returned the question to him and quickly learned of some upsetting transplanting issues with beets but promising future endeavors with carrots. We shared stories and debated growing strategies for a good twenty minutes when my friend made me realized something. “It’s like having a pet isn’t it?”

It was then that I realized why this whole project has been so important to me. This was more than a grade. I have “adopted” a growing, living being that is now completely my responsibility. The conversation with my friend inspired me to do whatever it takes to make this corn successful and to start growing more house plants whenever this winter finally subsides.

With all that being in mind, I do have some progress to report from Weeks #5 and #6 of my Blue Jade Corn’s growing season. It is as follows:

Week #5: Further Discoloration of Remaining Plants
Growing Period from 2/27-3/5
At the beginning of week #5, the two original plants are dead. Just like my prediction from the last post, these have been completely taken by root rot. While it was a sad day, I had to move my attention over to the other two plants quickly in order to try and save them.

The two remaining plants looked healthy but troubled. Their leaves were quickly turning a bright shade of yellow but new shoots continued to grow out of their stalks. This confused me but I decided not to fully panic yet. Instead, I did a bit more research.

What I found was that all corn can handle a lot of sun and water and actually thrives in an environment where these two things are surplus. So, according to this advice, I bumped up the plants water supply and got my corn a grow lamp. Now when the sun goes down, I move my corn under the grow lamp to try and mimic a few extra hours of sun. After the first few days under these conditions, my corn seemed to be responding well and I saw new leaves developing.

Week #6: There is hope!
Growing Period from 3/6-3/12
At the beginning of this week, I realized that I had been looking at the growth and so called “decay” of my corn all wrong. Growing up around the country area my whole life, I have of course been through and around corn fields. In fact, I drove through multiple everyday on my commute to high school for four years. Anyways…

What I realized was that on every corn plant I have ever seen, the stalk seems to be protected by seemingly dead or rough corn leaves. I always just assumed that it was to do with what season I was viewing the corn. For example, if I was in a corn maze during the fall maybe the plant was starting to show signs the upcoming winter. But it was this week that I realized that maybe these leaves are sacrificial and are a normal part of a healthy corn’s natural life cycle. This may sound ridiculous and I have found no research to support it but I am hopeful and with this new found theory, I kept watching my corn.

The good news so far is that my remaining corn is really thriving. Over the course of week #6, they have grown taller and stronger with new leaves appearing rapidly. Unfortunately, the bottom leaves have completely turned brown and shriveled back to the stalk. This browning has not seemed to affect the overall health of the plant, however. For now, the increased light and water have seemed to help!

I am getting more and more hopeful for the future of these two plants!

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