As we collect the hundreds of references and articles dealing with Halley’s Comet, we are amazed at the variety of publications that featured cover articles on the comet (from Railroad magazines to Religious Journals) and the recurrence of 1910 themes.


          Take, for instance, the well-circulated drawing from a 1910 German gardening magazine showing mushrooms and flowering plants bursting through greenhouses while Halley’s comet fills the sky.


          We came across a variation on the same theme as the lead story in FARMSHINE – a weekly newspaper for farmers and agribusiness serving  Pennsylvania and neighboring states (March 28, 1986).  And unless your wits were about you, you would have believed that the story was NOT tongue-in-cheek – but one that announced a major farm crisis in the U.S. – because it was so well-written and accompanied by charts, photographs and University backing!


          Under a photograph of inverted corn plants and accompanied by a map of the United States illustrating in color the extent of the disturbance, we read “Germination disturbance alarming – Southern farmers who planted their corn earlier this month are alarmed at finding their corn emerging through the ground upside down.  An unusual celestial occurrence of no moon and the comparatively close proximity of Halley’s Comet is blamed for the bizarre phenomenon.  Much of the corn in states from Texas to Georgia is growing with the roots up, as pictured above.  Scientists are forecasting that Halley’s Comet will disturb see germination throughout much of the United States this year.  The shaded area of the map, below, depicts the areas to be most likely affected.  Details are in a special report on page 24.”


          The report, on page 24, bearing the dateline of Terre Drole, Ga., is written by Dieter Krieg, Farmside Editor.  Here are some of the alarming revelations:


          “A vast majority of the 78.1 million acres of corn which American farmers intend to plant this year may not reach the harvest stage in the usual fashion.  That is the startling discovery of agronomists in several southern states where corn was planted earlier this month….  The immediate problem now, however, is that corn is growing backwards and ears may be forming underground this summer.


          The germination problem was first discovered in eastern Texas two weeks ago and was thought to be a local problem.  However, when plants in one field after another emerged through the ground upside-down, scientists ruled out local conditions, faulty planters, or poor quality seed.


          Data has now been compiled at several agricultural colleges in the South, with Georgia A & M University serving as the center for pooling information and resources.   The conclusion scientists have come to is that the strange germination pattern is due to bio-magnetic disturbances caused by the passing of Halley’s Comet.


          The article continues: “Fields hit the hardest were those which were planted when there was no moon.  Scientists theorize that the absence of the moon enabled Halley’s magnetic field to have a more pronounced effect on Earth’s plant life…..


          Many of the old-time farmers, who have for years scheduled their plantings with respect to the phases of the moon, are convinced that Halley’s Comet is to blame for the upsetting occurrence.  No records exist, however, of Halley’s having had similar effects during previous encounters with Earth.  Astronomers say that’s because the Comet’s path this year is far different than those ever recorded before in modern history.  Also, considering that the Comet’s last flight past Earth occurred during 1910, and the time before that was 1834, neither science nor communications were advanced enough to evaluate and compare findings.  It may be that similar events took place in some regions of the planet during the Middle Ages or earlier.


          At any rate, Halley’s path in 1986 is playing havoc with sprouting seeds – apparently disorienting them and sending roots upward instead of downward.


          Plants diagnosed so far at various institutions such as Georgia A & M show no signs of abnormalcy other than that they sprouted upside down.  Stalk formation appears to be normal and the underground leaves are apparently taking on root functions.  The gangly, vine-like above-ground roots, on the other hand, are showing heavy concentrations of chlorophyll, which has turned them very dark green in color….


          While it is likely that this upside-down germination is only temporary for the time that Halley’s Comet and its billion-mile-long tail is close to Earth, some observers fear that the phenomenon may signal an evolutionary process which might at some time become permanent…..


          One of the first farmers to notice he had a serious problem in his field was

Billy Joe Keinfeld of Plains County, Georgia.  “When I first done seen it, I reckoned maybe I had all my seeds upside down in the planter,” the veteran sodbuster drawled in a true Southern accent.  He planted his corn on March 1.  It came up[ a week later but it wasn’t until another couple of days went by before Billy Joe noticed something was wrong. “I blamed it on my wife at first because she planted it and she never did no corn plantin’ before,” he explained.  “She never could tell heads from tails nohow, so it seemed logical enough.  Well, then I figured that couldn’t have been it because not even she could mess up an entire field like that.  Surely, she wouldn’t have planted every seed upside down.”


          The article quotes plant pathologist, Dr. Winthrop C. Turvey (“Top” C. Turvey) of Georgia A & M University, as predicting that someday we’ll be harvesting our corn with potato pickers instead of corn pickers.


          The article, which appeared in the Friday, March 28, 1986 issue of the newspaper becomes completely understandable when we get to the last paragraph:


“Halley’s is closing in on us and even as it leaves again, remember it has a tail a billion miles long.  It’ll be quite a while before we’ve seen the last of this strange phenomenon.  On the other hand, it might all be over with on the FIRST DAY OF APRIL.  And then you won’t have to worry about your corn coming up backwards.”


Editor’s Note:  We wish to thank Mrs. Roberta Shontz of Vincentown, New Jersey, co-proprietor of a local family farm in Burlington County, New Jersey, for calling our attention to the article from which this story was taken.

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