The background as described by Nancy Talbott follows.
“The enclosed corn stalks come from a crop formation in Mission B.C., Canada which occurred in late August, 2002. You’ll note that the stalks have a lot of black on them. The stuff on the leaves I suspect is from fungus. But there is a different quality to the black on the roots and inside the corn stalks near the bottom which we are wondering about. Could this be a carbon blackening? Like perhaps one might see in a lightning strike? Or is it just the fungus?”
The objective is to determine the cause of the black color on the ends and roots of the corn stalks.
An aerial photograph of the site of the corn formation is on the following page.
•The analysis shows the black interior is corn fungus (ustilago). No carbon, which would be indicative of burning/heat, was detected.
•Two tests for determining the difference between carbon and black corn fungus can be easily done by field workers. The first would be to smell for charred material. The second would involve touching the black area. If the black material is carbon, some will come off and blacken the fingers. Corn fungus would not come off.