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Original URL: http://www.ag.iastate.edu/departments/agronomy/general.html

Banner for the Maize Page General Information Section
Image of maize plant

Maize: Gift from America's First Peoples

Columbus did not realize that the gift of maize was far more valuable than the spices or gold he hoped to find. He had no way of knowing that the history of maize traced back some 8,000 years or that it represented the most remarkable plant breeding accomplishment of all time. He might have been embarrassed if he had understood that then, as now, this plant developed by peoples he judged poor and uncivilized far outstripped in productivity any of the cereals bred by Old World farmers --wheat, rice, sorghum, barley, and rye. Were he alive today, he would certainly be astonished to see the extent to which the advent of maize has affected land use, food production, cuisine, and population growth around the world.

Walton Galinat, 1992, "Chilliesto Chocolate"

The Basic Facts

A Maize Kernel For a comprehensive summary of the biology, uses, nutritional value, origins, history, cultural and social significance of maize, see this article on maize, originally published (1997) in "The Encyclopedia of Mexico: Culture, History and Society." Even though the article focuses on the role and importance of the plant within Mexico, most of the introductory information has general applicability

A Maize Kernel Why is corn important? See this detailed description and itemization of the various uses of corn, from the United States Department of Agriculture's Germplasm Enhancement Program (GEM) at Iowa State University

A Maize Kernel How much corn is produced and where is it produced? The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service maintains data sets and charts documenting production trends for all major U. S. Crops. See the data on corn planted in 1998 and the trends in yield (1970-1979), total production (1989-1998) and ending stocks of corn. In addition see the following color maps of U. S. corn grain harvest by county (1995) and U. S. corn grain yield by county, (1995). For global production figures, the definitive database is maintained by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. See their FAOStat database for comprehensive searches of production, use and country data. Based on their information, here is a table of the world's maize production in 1997, ranging from the U. S. at 237.9 million metric tons down to the world's smallest maize producer, Puerto Rico, at 12 tons (note that this would be a common yield from a single hectare in Iowa! Here is a pie chart showing the distribution of global maize production in 1997

A Maize KernelWhat is corn used for? See the sections on corn usage and What can you get from a bushel of corn? From the Ohio Corn Marketing Program's web site

A Maize Kernel The corn refining process (wet milling), featuring an illustrated walk through these steps: inspection, cleaning, steeping, germ separation, fine grinding, screening, starch separation, syrup conversion and fermentation. Includes a flow chart of the complete process. From the Corn Refiners Association page, a professionally designed and informative site

Frequently Asked Questions

A Maize Kernel Sandstone corn in a basket What books can I read to learn more about maize? See this minimal bibliography of essential corn resources, including technical and general interest works. Includes important sources in French and Spanish languages.

A Maize KernelIs there a difference between "maize" and "corn?" The two words have completely different origins, but they refer to the same plant. Read about their respective etymologies and some of the comical present-day consequences.

A Maize KernelHow many ears does a corn plant produce?

A Maize Kernel "Why does popcorn pop?" A most frequently asked question, this one from a grade-school reader. An interesting follow-up occurred when a reader wondered why his popcorn did NOT pop. This topic includes the cure prescribed by Ken Ziegler, Iowa State University's popcorn specialist! For abundant information on the history, science, nutritional aspects and consumption of popcorn, visit The Popcorn Institute site.

A Maize Kernel How was "supersweet" corn developed?. It is the history of an accident, fortuitous observation, and persistent, dedicated work. In addition, see also this useful production guide for supersweet corn developed by New Zealand Crop and Food Research Ltd.

A Maize Kernel Is it true that some people eat corn smut? Read about the fungus that is a delicacy in central Mexico, and try out some recipes!

A Maize Kernel Why can we eat the seeds of corn when we don't normally eat the seeds of other vegetables like pumpkins or melons?

A Maize KernelHow were corn flakes invented? It was an accident which occurred in Battle Creek, Michigan, about 100 years ago. Read the details as provided by this page from Kellogg's Nutrition University.

A Maize KernelIs there a theoretical maximum yield limit for corn?

A Maize KernelAre there computer simulation models of the maize crop?

A Maize KernelWhat alternatives exist for adding value to corn grain?

A Maize KernelAre there uses for the cornstalk residue left behind after harvesting grain corn?

A Maize Kernel Maize is consumed as a staple crop in various forms by millions of Native Americans in Latin America. One form of consumption is as a flat bread known as a "tortilla." Here is the answer to a question posed by a reader: "What is the recipe to make a tortilla from scratch?"

A Maize Kernel Who can I contact to ask specific questions about maize? You can post your questions on the World Wide Web's BIONET/BIOSCI Maize newsgroup, which includes foremost experts on the maize crop. If you would prefer to participate in the newsgroup through a mailing list, see these instructions to subscribe. In addition, you may wish to consult this list of individuals with maize expertise. In cooperation with Purdue University's Bob Nielsen, we are beginning with the U. S. Corn Belt, and hope to eventually include the world!

General Interest Information Online

A Maize Kernel Companies hawking corn-based products on the web: Corn flakes, gourmet popcorn, tortilla chips...

A Maize KernelCorn bread fanatics! See this yummy, step-by-step, richly illustrated recipe for baking Southern Cornbread, from Cuisine magazine. If you are a cornbread connoisseur, see the Corn Bread section from Southern U. S. Cuisine Net Links. These include not only traditional hearty recipes but also specialty types, such as fat-free and a version for diabetics. Lastly, search through the 126 corn bread recipes in this database from Berkeley University's SOAR, Searchable Online Archive of Recipes!

A Maize KernelCorn in the Classroom, featuring ideas for classroom projects and a store of factual information regarding the history and uses of the crop. A feature of the Ontario Corn Producers' Association homepage.

A Maize KernelThe Amazing Maize Maze, found each summer near Ankeny, Iowa. Read about the idea and get directions. A feature from Iowa Farmer Today.

A Maize Kernel Maize Growth and Development, a visualization of simulated growth based on a model by Morris Huck and Robert Grant of the Univ. of Illinois Agronomy Department

A Maize Kernel Mitchell, South Dakota's Corn Palace. "Nowhere else in the world is there another such structure, decorated with 3,000 bushels of corn"

A Maize Kernel The Corn Animation. This one is just for fun. If you have a fast connection, lots of disk space, and can play MPEG files, take a look at what a group of University of Iowa students thought would happen when Maize Cob gets his turn at bat...

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