Amazing Maize

David Johnston

15.7.2023 | Mission in Ireland, Farming & Rural Life

In his blog David Johnston writes about the versatility of maize as a crop and how breeders have developed new varieties so that it can be manufactured into hundreds of food stuffs, biodegradable products and drinks. David writes about how amazing this plant is, he is reminded of how amazing it is that despite our shortcomings, failings and sin, God still loves us with an “an everlasting love”.

Maize is an increasingly popular crop in Ireland, used mainly for silage for dairy cows but also as an energy crop for anaerobic digesters. The maize crop originated in South America and it is believed to have been brought back to Europe by the explorer Christopher Columbus.

Plant breeders have put considerable effort into selecting new varieties with specific attributes and maize grain can be manufactured into hundreds of human and animal foods, biodegradable products and drinks. Maize really thrives during the warm, sunny weather that we enjoyed last summer, producing yields of up to 50 tonnes per hectare under our local conditions.

Make and female

Mature maize plants are quite unusual in their physical structure, in that they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant, a genetic term known as monoecy. At the top of the plant the male flower (the tassel) produces pollen, which is carried by wind to the female flowers (the silks), which are lower down the stem.

When pollination occurs, the cobs containing the distinctive golden grains are formed. Several years ago, I had the opportunity of visiting a commercial maize seed producer in France, where I saw a large team of workers using hand pruners to remove the tassel. This process, which can also be done by machine, is the equivalent of castration in animals. Adjacent to these de-tassled plants were rows of another maize variety, which acted as the male pollinator. This process ensures that any grains formed are from cross between the parental lines, resulting in F1 Hybrid seed, which we use to sow maize crops here in Ireland.

Unique breeding system

So, maize truly is an amazing crop, both in its versatility and its unique breeding system. But there are many other amazing crops and animals around us, which we enjoy daily and which God has provided for our benefit. When we think of things in the spiritual realm, it amazes me that God knew me even before I was born, in Psalm 139: 16 we read “your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

And despite all of our sin, our failings and shortcomings, it’s amazing to know that God still loves us. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah tells us “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…” (Isaiah 31:3). In the New Testament, we find the Apostle Paul writing to the churches in Galatia. He says, “the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Enjoying and eternity in heaven

What a thought that the only Son of God, went willingly to die on a cross to pay the debt of our sin, so that we could know forgiveness and have a place prepared for us in heaven!

Isn’t it really amazing to know that if we accept the salvation which Christ has provided for each of us by his death on the cross, and ask him to be our personal Saviour, we can look forward to enjoying eternity in heaven. Jesus himself said “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). Now that will be totally amazing!

David Johnston is married to Pauline and they have four grown up children. Since retiring from AFBI Loughgall, he grows Bramley apples which he supplies to local processors and packers. David is a member of Loughgall Presbyterian Church.

His blog appeared in today’s Farming Life, a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News for the Countryside’, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.

You can look at other blogs in this series here.

Maize harvest underway at Loughgall in October 2022 (Photo credit David Johnston).

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplainat or call him on 07938 488 372.

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