Rouge River Farms

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News about Sweet Corn and Agribusiness Industry

This section provides information, news and updates of what is happening in the world of sweet corn. 

 

Rouge River Farms - ARTICLES & UPDATES

How Cold, Wet Weather is Affecting Corn Production

What Does the Future of Sweet Corn Trays Look Like in a Greener World?

 

 

How Cold, Wet Weather is Affecting Corn Production

The very rainy spring that hit the northeastern US and parts of Canada has hit corn crops hard this year. A viral Facebook post by Tori Cline that showed the difficulties corn farmers are facing in the region compared to last year (1, 2).

Image may contain: plant, sky, nature and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, sky, mountain, grass, outdoor and nature
 
 

 

The photo on the left was taken by Tori Cline of her husband Kyle in their Indiana farm in June of last year, and the picture on the right was exactly one year later. The very rainy, and relatively cold spring had a big impact on the ability for corn to grow to its full potential.

In fact, the impact of the rain is so widespread, that AccuWeather predicts that corn production will be at a record-low rate, based on USDA data.

Factors like the widespread flooding, low prices, and unpredictable weather are all elements that influence farmers’ decision to plant or not (3, 4). Almost the entire Midwest, especially northern states, has experienced the significant impact of the rain on their crop production (see state-by-state maps here) (5). 

Even Ontario and Quebec in Canada were affected by damp conditions that slowed corn production (6).

Because of the widespread cold and wet weather this year, weeds become a problem, as does the potential for corn crop disease development. It is even estimated that millions of acres of crops will not be planted this year (7).

 

 How Cold, Wet Weather Affects Corn at Different Stages

The Department of Agronomy at Purdue University and Dennis Todey at the Midwest Climate Hub of Iowa describe how the cold weather affects corn growth at different stages (7, 8).corn corn stalk stalk free picture

Newly-Planted Corn

When corn is planted, and unexpected cold soil temperatures occur between 1-2 days after planting, the cold temperatures (between 41F-50F) could damage the seeds. They experience something called “imbibitional chilling injury.”

The seeds start to “drink” (or imbibe) water to swell, but if the cells of the kernel are too cold, they could rupture as the kernel begins to swell. As you can imagine, this results in a failure of the sprout to emerge.

If the ground is too wet, newly planted seeds can be affected by stunted root development and emergence since a hard crust can develop on soil that can be difficult for crops to break through.

Newly-Emerged Corn

Unexpected cold weather after the corn has emerged could be minor, but it could also result in complete death of all the exposed and affected parts of the plant. In general, as long as the frost doesn’t reach below the soil, and the temperature doesn’t reach lethally cold 28F, the plant can still live and often recover between 5-7 days after the frost.

However, repeated frosts, especially those that impact recovering corn plants, can result in stunting or death.

As for the water, the submerged roots can prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the roots, and eventually, they can rot (9).

How Will This Affect Consumers?

The biggest impact consumers will find in corn availability over the next several months is on prices of corn. Since there are less production and demand will likely remain the same throughout the summer, corn will get more expensive. Luckily, weather for corn production in states like Florida have been stable, so this will allow Florida producers to help fill the production gap (10).

Takeaways

The Spring of 2019 has been far too wet and cold for fruitful corn production in much of the US Corn Belt. Many agriculturists, like Kyle Cline in Indiana, who have gone ahead and planted corn despite the wet weather (pictured above), have seen significant delays in corn growth and development. Many other farmers have decided not to plant altogether.

The USDA reports that this will result in 5-year record lows in corn production. For consumers, this will very likely mean an increase in corn prices throughout the summer and fall. Luckily, some parts of the country, like Florida, will be able to continue to produce corn so that you can still enjoy your summer corn.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.facebook.com/katie.mcdermit/posts/2526778844001701
  2. https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/viral-before-and-after-photos-speak-volumes-about-corn-belt-farmers-nightmare-struggles-in-2019/70008596
  3. https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/accuweather-predicts-another-historic-low-for-corn-planting-as-billion-dollar-disaster-looms/70008479
  4. https://www.agriculture.com/news/business/mapping-out-the-wet-cold-plant19
  5. https://usda.library.cornell.edu/concern/publications/8336h188j?locale=en#release-items
  6. https://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/pubs/Monthly/current.pdf
  7. https://www.yankton.net/community/article_060bf6ba-93d7-11e9-9ebf-63ec7ecd3f23.html
  8. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.12/EarlyCornColdWthr-0412.html
  9. https://www.ambiental.co.uk/the-detrimental-impact-of-floods-on-farming-and-rural-areas/
  10. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/index.php

 

 

What Does the Future of Sweet Corn Trays Look Like in a Greener World?

Little by little, the world is becoming more aware of the impact of their consumer decisions on the planet. In the last few years, there have been global pushes against the use of disposable products especially plastic bags and single-use straws.

 

Why Is There a Trend Away from the Use of Plastic and Styrofoam Products?

Plastic products, including polystyrene (more commonly known by a brand name, Styrofoam) is not biodegradable. If plastic is not recycled, it goes into our streets and landfills, and much of it eventually ends up in our waterways. This poses a major risk to animal life that may confuse it for food, or get it stuck on different parts of their bodies.

Waste that is not properly treated contains chemicals that can leach into the soil and affect water and food sources, and it can have detrimental effects on our health, including causing damage to our nervous system.1

Plastic can be recycled, and recent research has shown that there are ways to break down polystyrene into usable soil 2; however, not enough plastic is recycled to keep up with demand (in fact, some data shows only about 9% is recycled!3), and there are yet to be systems in place to break down polystyrene in the quantities we need for it to make an impact.

Thanks to the impact that eco-conscious groups are making through social media to educate companies and businesses about the impact their packaging and product choices make on the environment and our health, there are trends away from traditional packing products and towards greener alternatives.

 

What are Current Sustainable Packaging Trends?

In 2015, about 141 million tons of plastic4were used for the packaging industry. That is almost as much as all other sectors combined.

Eco-conscious businesses, and the demand from eco-conscious consumers, have begun to push for significant changes in the packaging industry. In fact, according to a white paper by EcoFocus Worldwide 5, about 68% of grocery shoppers believe that it is extremely responsible or very important to “choose foods or beverages that are packaged responsibly”. In fact, over half of shoppershave changed what they buy due to the type or amount of packaging products use.

In short, it is clear that there is a demand for brands and retailers to work harder to share consumer values.

Why not do away with packaging altogether?

Packaging is important for many products, especially produce like certain presentations of sweet corn, to protect them fromdamage, spoilage, and contamination. It helps to reduce food waste by allowing them to stay fresher for longer.

What Are Some Alternatives for Sweet Corn Packaging and other Produce?

packaging-alternatives

Produce like fresh sweet corn without the husk require packaging to increase their freshness and ensure their produce safety. So, if brands no longer want to use plastic or polystyrene, what are some alternatives?

Several high-profile actors and eco-conscious entrepreneurs have offered green and sustainable alternatives to conventional plastic and polystyrene packaging. Biodegradable plastic alternatives entering the market are all plant-based8. Innovation Excellence online9 has identified several alternatives to plastic packaging, of which those that can be applied to sweet corn packaging are mentioned here.

These include:

 

  1. Plant-based plastics: Much of the research on these have been summarized by the Organization of American States (OAS)10:
  2. Soy
  3. Pea and potato
  4. Chitin (from marine sources)
  5. Cassava
  6. Bananas
  7. Cotton
  8. Wheat
  9. Corn
  10. Bamboo
  11. Palm leaves
  12. And many more!

Packaging made from these materials are biodegradable and, while research is still being conducted on many of these, they may offer alternatives to plastic trays.

  1. Mushroom root (Mycelium): Looks like a fibrous packaging – would be a great alternative to polystyrene for many products.
  2. Bagasse: Another alternative to polystyrene that comes from sugarcane fiber
  3. Biodegradable cellophane: How about alternatives to clear film? New technology is also being applied to plastic to allow it to biodegrade anywhere between nine months to five years. One example is EarthAware’s biodegradable film11.  Another option is Natureflex12’ compostable and renewable packaging films.

 

Take-Away Message

It is clear that the stars are beginning to align regarding building opportunity to produce, transform, and buy products that reflect values in environmental sustainability. Consumers are becoming more conscious, researchers are inventing alternatives to conventional packaging, and entrepreneurs and large-scale business are making them available to brands to use.

 

At Rouge River Farms we are committed to staying caring for the quality of what we produce, and in going so, caring for people’s health and the planet. That is why we are EFI certified, and why we continue to innovate our processes so that we reflect our values, and can continue to supply sweet corn to a changing, more eco-conscious world.

 

References:

1) https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.7518 
2)www.natureworldnews.com/articles/17153/20150930/plastic-pollution-mealworms-convert-styrofoam-waste-usable-soil.htm
3)news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
4) ourworldindata.org/faq-on-plastics
5) evergreenpackaging.com/wp-content/uploads/18-EVP-0057-Trend-White-Paper-FINAL.pdf
6) evergreenpackaging.com/wp-content/uploads/18-EVP-0067-_Retail_Trends_Infographic_v2_.pdf
7) sbfoodinno.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/180612_CS_Food-Packaging_Per-Stefan-Gersbro.pdf
8) www.oas.org/en/sedi/dsd/docs/ReportT&T_2016.PDF
9) www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2018/07/02/13-plastic-packaging-alternatives/
10)www.oas.org/en/sedi/dsd/docs/ReportT&T_2016.PDF
11)  www.greenerpackage.com/compost_biodegrade/earthaware_bag-film_materials_are_biodegradable
12) www.futamuragroup.com/divisions/cellulose-films/products/natureflex/


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