You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

breaking news

Classes resume Tuesday after West Liberty-Salem HS shooting

Geneticist suggests solution to political gridlock


Glut stage is like flood stage.

The only difference is what there’s too much of.

This fall, we’re at glut stage in two things: Corn and politics.

The first is measured in bushels, and a 14 billion-bushel harvest seems possible. The second is measured in shovels-full and seems to be rising faster than the national debt.

Let’s all for a moment to give thanks for nature’s infinite wisdom in making the prevailing winds in our nation blow from west to east.

Thank you.

Despite circumstances that called for the pause, I confess to having felt a recent surge of optimism about our political future.

It’s based on my discovery of our how our production of shovels-full might be reduced by following the advice of the son of a Clark County sharecropper who long ago built the foundation for this year’s booming corn harvest.

Without being told he was born in 1874, some might guess George Harrison Shull was named for a prominent musician from Liverpool, England.

Not so. But there is this connection: If the Beatles revolutionized the world of music, George Harrison Shull revolutionized the world of agriculture.

No less a luminary than James Watson, who with Francis Crick discovered the double helix of human genetics. Watson said this:

“In a true sense corn genetics all started in Cold Springs Harbor (N.Y.) when George Shull came here.”

That was in 1904.

A fuller explanation of Shull’s groundbreaking work and improbable rise will appear in an article in Monday’s News-Sun.

For today’s purposes, I’ll just say that the astounding increases in crop yield since the 1930s are largely due to Shull’s two-step genetic technique:

1. Inbreeding two separate strains of corn over generations to reduce each plant to its purest characteristics.

2. Cross-breeding those pure strains into a hybrid, allowing the strong characteristics of each to overwhelm the weaker characteristics of the other, making a more vibrant and productive plant.

To get to the purebred stage, of course, requires living for a time with the problems of inbreeding, which tends to producer sicklier, less productive plants before they’re joined in a healthy hybrid.

The question of whether time is yet ripe for the cross pollination of Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner to produce a hybrid legislator with more desirable characteristics is thus a theoretical possibility.

A moment’s pause, however, and we realize doing so presents a certain moral hazard and a substantial risk for unintended consequences.

Fortunately, Shull’s story points to another solution that seems more promising.

In a 1998 edition of “Perspectives,” the magazine of the Genetics Society of America, the late associate editor James Crow told the story of a sharp disagreement Shull had with another of the emerging giants of corn hybrids, E.M. East of Connecticut State College.

East was so convinced by Shull’s basic insight, that he confessed “I … wonder why I have been so stupid as not to see the fact myself.”

Still, he thought Shull’s idea was almost wholly impractical.

As Crow explains, “the puny inbred lines (of corn) produced such small quantities of seed” that raising enough of them to make hybrid seed for mass planting was far too expensive.

“The great cost of seed, he thought, negated any increased yield of the hybrids.”

The two parties soon found themselves squarely at odds and in danger of having a showdown that likely would have been repeated over and over again, trapping them in an ultimately destructive drama that could have dragged on indefinitely.

In 1910, in the face of this “strong disagreement,” Crow writes, Shull and East “agreed not to let this become an open debate nor to let personalities intrude” as events unfolded.

Adds Crow, “They remained true to their word.”

The parallel seems simple: If we could agree to govern like we raise corn — with an eye toward productivity — things might work out.

And it seems all the more persuasive if the alternative involves cross-pollination.

I’m just sayin’ ….


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

3 things to know today about West Liberty school shooting
3 things to know today about West Liberty school shooting

Here are three things to know today about the West Liberty-Salem school shooting, which happened Friday morning. 1. The victim’s condition is improving Ryan Cole, father of 16-year-old victim Logan Cole, posted on Facebook Saturday night that his son was doing much better and was even allowed to have visitors after having his breathing tube removed...
New tavern, restaurant opens in Springfield
New tavern, restaurant opens in Springfield

Tim Rigel has owned a lot of businesses and properties in Springfield over the years from drive-throughs and rentals to sports complexes and car lots. Rigel hopes his latest venture is his lasting legacy and one for Springfield. Park Road Tavern, located at 2205 Park Road in the former Casey’s Restaurant and Banquet Facility, opened softly in...
Ohio Task Force 1 on alert for possible deployment to South after storms
Ohio Task Force 1 on alert for possible deployment to South after storms

Ohio Task Force 1 is on alert to help with rescue and recovery operations in the South, hit hard by severe weather that has killed more than a dozen people. Ohio Task Force 1, based in Dayton, is getting an 80-person team ready after it was placed on alert by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The alert requires the OH-TF1 urban search and rescue...
Tornado watch affects millions in Georgia
Tornado watch affects millions in Georgia

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued a high-risk severe weather outlook continuing today for South Georgia, as well as parts of Alabama and Florida. The Center also said supercell thunderstorms could spawn tornadoes. Eleven people died after violent storms moved through Georgia Saturday night.  Seven people were killed at a mobile home park...
Moorefield Twp. neighbors oppose proposed storage facility
Moorefield Twp. neighbors oppose proposed storage facility

More than 80 people have signed a petition against a proposed storage facility in Moorefield Twp. over worries it will create traffic problems and safety concerns. A property owner has submitted a rezoning application to the Clark County Community Development office to change 3726 Moorefield Road from agricultural to business-use zoning and allow for...
More Stories