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The little corn that could

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By BEN CARLSON

Its peers stand as high as an elephant's eye this time of year, their silk-covered ears ready for husking.

But not this lonely stalk of corn. It likely sprang to life accidentally when its seed fell from a passing truck and settled into a crevice on the shoulder of North Main Street.

So far, the little fellow has defied the odds, finding just enough soil beneath the pavement and water above it to eek out a life.

But the odds of growing any actual ears of corn are about as low as the odds are high that, at some point, a passing car will simply turn it to meal beneath its wheels.

"It has a slim chance," said Tommy Yankey, an agriculture agent in the Anderson County Extension office. "It needs something to pollinate it."

Finding a pollination partner isn't likely to happen. Yankey said most test fields show that corn stalks need to be within 300 yards to cross pollinate. And, unfortunately for this stalk, there isn't a cornfield within shouting distance.

That the stalk has survived this long is a testament to just how rugged corn really is. Far from a wilting lily, corn can survive even the harshest conditions, including too much or too little rain, for extended periods of time.

"It's a tough plant," Yankey said, adding that a corn crop needs about 24 inches of rain or reserve water to come to maturity. "It's kind of like tobacco because it will hang in there as long as any crop."