Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Pyramids of Kansas

It was about a week too late for photographs of the enormous mounds of the north central Kansas milo harvest by the small town of Glen Elder.  This was the last uncovered hill and it only shows a bit of the marvelous striations of colors from the various strains and hybrid seeds.  Normally these enormous hills are beautiful mosaics of yellows, golds, reds, browns and beige.  Every year when I drive by, I wish for my camera.  I remembered to take my camera this time but just missed the best and most beautiful.

At this particular site, there are three huge covered buildings, and there were three enormous outdoor mounds already covered with the heavy plastic tarps. I failed to get a good picture of the entire complex.  There are millions of bushels of milo there.

According to KSSorghum.com, in 2011 Jewell County led the state in highest sorghum production with 5.95 million bushels followed by Smith County with 4.97 million bushels. Mitchell, Rooks and Osborne County rounded out the top five. Marshall County saw the highest yields in 2011 with 112.5 bushels per acre.  Glen Elder is in Mitchell County.  Kansas typically produces between 40 and 50% of the nation's sorghum crop. 

My "warm and fuzzy" feelings about milo was dealt a blow when I read that the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association "continues to play a key role in advocating and protecting crop protection choices for Kansas sorghum farmers. KGSPA is one of the founding leaders of the Triazine Network, a national coalition of agriculture groups who continue to work to keep the atrazine and other triazine herbicides available to growers."   KGSPA is the only organization with a registered lobbyist representing sorghum growers in the Kansas Legislature.

After reading that, I went to the Environmental Protection Agency web site.  The EPA is concerned with the widespread contamination of drinking water.  "Atrazine is currently one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the United States, with estimated production of 76 to 85 million pounds annually."

All I can say is that I am thankful for the EPA's monitoring of this herbicide.  I hope they know what they are doing.


Kathy said...

So what the heck happens to all that sorghum (I am assuming here that milo turns into sorghum)? I see the occasional lone jar of Mrs. Somebody's Sorghum syrup in the foofy grocery store but no one buy myself seems to have ever bought it and tried it on pancakes (good) in chocolate chip cookies (fabulous) and ........ that's all I've ever used it for. Is it possibly used to glue together drain to make silage in those big silo thingies?

Jackie said...

Sorghum and milo are the same thing - different names for the same crop. Sweet sorghum is what makes sorghum molasses (though real molasses is made from something else I think). A long time ago sorghum molasses was sort of a poor man's fortifier and health tonic - so maybe that is the reason the foofy store sold it. I don't think they make silage out of sorghum - but maybe they do. Silage is corn - ears, stalk and all - ground up and left to ferment, sort of like saurkraut for cattle. I am sure my father and my grandfather filled their tall silos with silage to feed the cattle through the winter but I don't know that anyone uses the tall silos for anything any more. It is easier to dig a big open trench in the ground where they can use loaders to get at it. They also fill enormous white plastic tubes with silage now. I have never seen a tube being filled or having anything removed but I have seen the tubes full and slowly be depleted, so I know they get the silage out of them.

Jackie said...

If you are talking about the towering white "elevators" you see across the Kansas plains... usually every little town has an elevator - those are filled with different grains: wheat and corn - probably soy beans. Milo can be left on the ground like in the photos I posted because the milo kernal is so hard that it resists spoiling like the other grains. At least I think that is why.