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Corn and Soil 60

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CORN AND SOIL 60. The Indians had corn.—When the white men first came to Massachusetts in 1620, the Indians gave them, as a present, some bark baskets filled with a new kind of grain, which was called maize. The Englishmen called it Indian corn. It kept some of these first settlers of America from starving, for food was scarce that first winter. People have been eating corn bread in the United States ever since. But in some countries of Europe corn is used only to feed farm animals.

When the Indians wanted to grow corn they hunted out a place in the woods where the ground wa'S soft and rich. They cut down the little trees with their stone hatch ets, and killed the big trees by making fire around their trunks. they punched holes in the soft earth with sharp sticks, and dropped into each hole a few grains of corn.

61. Feeding fish were plenti ful, the Indians sometimes dropped a fish into the hole with the seed when they planted the corn. This fed the plants, making them grow large and strong.

Did you ever think that plants as well as animals need food? All plants eat. To find food, they send out long, slender roots into the earth. Some things in the earth are good for plants to eat, and the little roots take this plant food out of the earth. A liquid called sap, which flows through V:9 plant from the little roots, carries the plant food up through the trunks and branches, and out to the leaves and blossoms and fruit.

Plants can grow only if they have food and drink.

62. Fertile soil.—If earth has plenty of plant food in it, we say that it is rich, or fertile, soil. If there is little plant food, we say that the soil is poor. You can see the differ ence between the two kinds if you plant a few seeds in a pot or can of rich garden earth, and some in poor earth from a road side.

In some places the soil is so fertile that it makes big crops, if we keep the weeds away so that they do not eat up the plant food. In other places the ground is so poor that it is not worth while to plant crops at all, unless the farmer feeds the plants by fertilizing the soil. This can be

done in several ways. Sometimes a farmer raises a crop of grass or clover and plows it under for wheat and other crops to eat; or he spreads straw or manure on the 63. Making corn fields.— It was easier for the first settlers to grow corn than for the Indians, because the white men's axes of sharp steel easily cut down the big trees, so that fields could be planted where forests ground for fertilizer. It was about the time when men learned how to make rail roads that they learned also how to make very rich plant food called commercial fertilizer. This is worked into the soils where the plant roots can find it. One hundred pounds of this kind of fertilizer may make two or three hundred more pounds of wheat than could have grown without it.

After the Indians had planted their corn among the trees, the women pulled up the weeds, letting the corn plants get all the food there was. In four months from plant ing time, the stalks were higher than a man's head, and the ears were ready to eat.

had stood. The poor Indian had to plant his corn with a sharp stick, but the white man uses plows and harrows. (Figs. 67 and 68.) These turn the soil over and make it soft and fine, so that the corn roots can grow through it easily.

64. Corn land and corn weather.—Corn likes many showers, and much sunshine too. If you will look at the corn map (Fig. 79) and the rainfall map (Fig. 88), you will see that corn does not grow where there is little rain. Moreover, to grow corn easily we need rich, level ground. That is why Illi nois and Iowa grow more corn than any other three states. These two corn states are for the most part one wide stretch of level, fertile land, so level that you can cross both states and never see anything that even looks like a mountain. They have plenty of rain and warm summer weather, both of which are so good for corn.

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