Why I Wrote “The Corn Whisperer”

The idea for The Corn Whisperer came about after I learned that the old saying “It is so quiet, you can hear the corn grow” is actually true.

I grew up on a farm where we raised corn, and I confess that I never heard the sound of corn growing. But on a visit to Acoma―one of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos―I noticed a cornfield at the bottom of the hill. This tranquil setting seemed the perfect place to hear corn grow, and kernels of The Corn Whisperer began to take root.

Dr. Fred Below, a professor of plant physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana, provided me with an explanation for the sound of corn growing. According to Dr. Below, on still nights when the crop is in the late vegetative state, the area of the stalk between adjacent leaves expands and grows. As the cells of the stalk expand, you can actually hear a popping or cracking sound. The sound comes from the cells that make up the specialized, water-conducting plant tissue that moves water from the root, up through the stalk, and to the leaves. During this stage, the cornstalk can grow up to three inches a day.

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