Wisconsin Mining/Lead

HIGHLAND, Wis. (AP) — The first year he planted soybeans in the 22-acre field at the edge of town, Kurt Menke noticed something odd: His crop came up healthy, but sometime in June the plants in one section all died.

Menke took a sample of soil from the bad area — a couple of acres in the northwest corner of the field — and sent it to a lab for testing.

The results showed zinc at levels thousands of times higher than normal. Zinc is an essential nutrient, but too much of it is poisonous to plants.

Menke’s mother brought the results to Chris Baxter, a soil scientist at UW-Platteville, where she also worked. He took one look and decided to take his own samples.