"Lisa Schulte Moore loves nature. To stand in an old-growth forest, she says, "I can only describe it as healing."
When she moved to Iowa to teach ecology at Iowa State University, she didn't get that same feeling when she found herself amid acres of corn. She wasn't hearing birds or seeing many bugs. "All I can hear are the leaves of the rustling corn," she says. "Not one biological noise. You know, they call it the green desert."
This is, in fact, the central environmental problem with agriculture. This year, corn and soybeans cover an area of the United States equal in size to all the East Coast states from New York to Georgia. It has displaced wildlife and left the soil more vulnerable to water and wind erosion.
But Schulte Moore says that it doesn't have to be a green desert. She's been studying a farming practice called "prairie strips" — stretches of land within fields of corn or soybeans, accounting for perhaps 10% of the total area, which farmers have set aside for a mixture of tall-stemmed grasses and wildflowers."