Agronomy: The Benefits of Sowing Wild Oats

To the ancient Hebrews, the grain rust that so often attacked their crops was nothing less than God's punishment for their sins. The Romans, who knew the same agricultural scourge, placed a special god in charge of it and prayed to him for mercy. In King Lear, Shakespeare blamed rust's presence on a "foul fiend" named Flibbertigibbet. Whatever its origin, the fungus is still thriving; its red, yellow and orange splotches on stems and leaves cause a grain-crop loss of hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And every time that modern...

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