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What to do with massive amounts of contaminated corn stalks  RSS feed

 
Rebecca Butler
Posts: 12
Location: Central IL, zone 6b
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My land is surrounded by conventional corn and bean fields. This fall we had record amounts of rainfall. Massive amounts of debris from the corn fields washed into my creek and piled against my fence line. My creek is 10' wide and it's almost dammed. There is a pile against my fence that is probably 4' tall, 2' wide and spans 100' or more. It's a lot. If it's was organic, I would have won the biomass lottery! Unfortunately, it's GMO and has been sprayed so I need to find a way to contain it.

I thought about designating a spot for wild flowers and using it all there, but we have bee hives. Will the flowers be contaminated and potentially harmful to the bees, or will it be ok since the chemicals will be taken up by roots and not sprayed on? i don't want to do anything that might harm the bees.

I also thought about using it in the grey water system, which we will be setting up in the next month or 2, but that will be right by our vegetable gardens. Will it leach into the garden beds? I thought the chemicals might be broken down more quickly within the grey water system. Is that accurate?

We'll be putting in swales next week. Is mulching them with this stuff a bad idea? I'll be growing fruit trees along the swales.

I also have to assume that I will be gifted with this runoff every year--hopefully in smaller quantities!--so I probably need to come up with a way to deal with it on an ongoing basis.

Any advice or other ideas? We are just starting out on 27 acres of pasture and woods so I have a lot of room to play around and I'm open to any ideas. Thanks!

(Edited to include question about Swales!)
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Rebeccca, I guess you mean corn stalks? not cork? I think you should use the stalks as compost, at the very least. Composting is one of those processes that can break down bad stuff and make it harmless. Look up the term Bioremediation. That's when a natural situation can break down dangerous chemicals, and compost is one of those. But in order to speed up the composting process it would go faster if you chopped them up into small pieces, like chunks, layered with manure and grass, leaves, etc. Turn if often enough to keep the pile hot.

GMO doesn't matter unless there are seeds involved. Unless there are ears on there still that have seeds, then it's just carbon that may or may not have pesticide residue. Probably not enough to worry about if it's been dead for a while and sat through a lot of rain. If there are still some old ears on the stalks with seeds, I'd take those off and get them off the property, or put them in a metal garbage can sprayed flat black, with a metal lid and fry them to death in the sun for a year or so.

I don't know what kind of grey water system you intend to use. Mine uses live plants, not dead plant material. So you are going to just run grey water over a compost pile or something? I don't think the cold water would allow the pile to get hot and stay hot, which is what breaks down chemicals. But I doubt there's enough pesticide residue on there to worry about.

As far as mulch, I guess it depends on whether you want absolutely no chemical residue at all, or you think the compost under the mulch will handle whatever small runoff there is. If you are in doubt, mulch large perennials, like fruit trees or landscape plants. Not annual vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, greens that are approx. 90% water.

I think using residue from unfortunate farming practices at least gets some good out of it
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2292
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Rebecca, I would suggest composting with the addition of some fungi, specifically oyster mushroom spawn.
This particular fungi will adsorb and process any chemical residuals that might be in the corn stalks and make it good compost for your gardens.
 
Rebecca Butler
Posts: 12
Location: Central IL, zone 6b
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Thanks for the replies! I will definitely add some oyster spawn. That's a great idea.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2292
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
183
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Oyster Mushroom is the one you will have best success with.
 
Rebecca Butler
Posts: 12
Location: Central IL, zone 6b
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Ok, thanks, Bryant! I'm ordering oyster mushroom spawn this week for food and I will order extra for this process.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Rebecca Butler wrote:My land is surrounded by conventional corn and bean fields. This fall we had record amounts of rainfall. Massive amounts of debris from the corn fields washed into my creek and piled against my fence line. My creek is 10' wide and it's almost dammed. There is a pile against my fence that is probably 4' tall, 2' wide and spans 100' or more. It's a lot. If it's was organic, I would have won the biomass lottery! Unfortunately, it's GMO and has been sprayed so I need to find a way to contain it.


Personally I would leave it to compost where it is. It is already contained, in my opinion. Dump some mushroom spawn, compost tea, molasses water, etc on it, and let your little friends go to work. I would personally not try to move the pile. If it dams the creek that is your neighbor's problem since it is coming from their side.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
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