“But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last” ~ Robert M. Pyle, lepidopterist and author (Photo by Debbie Johnson)
Weeds, brush and overgrown trees aren’t just an eyesore for railroads. Out of control vegetation can reduce visibility for train operators and vehicles or pedestrians trying to cross the tracks.
Because this is a safety issue, railroad companies must keep weeds under control. That’s not as easy as it sounds and it can be pretty pricey. A weed scientist with the University of Missouri, works with railroads, testing experimental chemical mixtures and labeled products, searching for the most effective controls for the least amount of money.
Reid Smeda, weed scientist for University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Shane Riley, maintenance engineer for the Columbia Terminal railroad, or COLT
Seed pods on chestnut trees grown at the MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin, MO (photo by CAFNR’s Kyle Spradley)
Finding alternative crops for small to medium size farms can be daunting. In the Midwest one crop is emerging as an option – Chinese chestnut. While chestnuts must have well-drained soil, it doesn’t take thousands of acres to be a big time producer. Fifty acres are enough to produce thousands of pounds of chestnuts.
It will take six to eight years before the trees will produce nuts, but chestnuts offer the perfect opportunity for alley cropping while you wait for them to mature. Food crops or forages are options.
The demand for chestnuts is on the rise and current producers can’t keep up, so growing chestnuts has real profit potential.