Weed Fields In The Corn Fields

I was reading through Iowa Farmer Today and came across a couple of articles which caught my attention. They concern Monarda, a flower which is being grown in Northern Iowa in place of a crop.
What is Monarda? According to Gene Lucht’s article, their full name is Monarda Fistulosa. Although the name makes the plant sound like a wayward prize fighter from a small town in Italy, they are actually a species of mint. Monarda looks like a purple wildflower and a field full of them definitely offers a pleasant change of scenery among the corn fields.
Why then are some farmers raising them in place of a crop such as corn or soybean? A biotech company called Prairie Pharms LLC has discovered that an extract from Monarda contains thymoquinone (or TQ) which is used in the manufacturing of certain cosmetics. Up until the closest ingredient to TQ was found in the middle east.
The raising of TQ (in Monarda) has become a full time project in Iowa. At The Hormel Institute there is currently research going on to see if TQ may be used in the treatment of cancer.
Because of this, there is a definite financial benefit for the farmers who choose to raise Monarda. But what about the farmers who don’t? Or what about the farmers who live next door to those who raise Monarda?
It is true that Monarda may contain some health benefits and offer a pleasant view for passersby. But according to residents in the area, Monarda also attracts weeds. Among the flowers there are thistles and weeds, which, when the wind blows, sends showers of thistles onto the neighboring property. Of course, the thistles contain seeds which spread the weed growth in all directions. In a letter to the editor in Iowa Farmer Today Dennis and Jean Fitzl write that sometimes their yard is 25 percent covered with thistles from the neighbor’s Monarda field.
This is definitely a problem. Good intentions are a good excuse for awhile, but if the downside is spreading weed growth into the cornfields, then there is a collision coming in Northern Iowa.

Leave a Reply