Maize (or corn) is the number one cereal in the world. Its global production is higher than that of rice and wheat. Maize is a main staple food for people in Africa and South America but it is also used worldwide as a fodder crop for livestock.
Maize was already grown in prehistoric times by the inhabitants of Central America, such as the Aztecs and the Mayans. In the early 16th century it was introduced in Europe from where it then quickly spread to other regions in the world. One of the advantages of maize is that it can be grown in a wide range of climates.
There are now hundreds of different maize varieties. Some are used to produce flour, others are used as a vegetable (sweet corn, baby corn) or used to make popcorn.Some varieties of maize are not grown for the seeds but for the stems and leaves that are used as a fodder.
Basic information and facts
Worldwide, except Antarctica.
Maize is a domesticated plant belonging to the grasses. The stem of the maize plant looks a bit like bamboo canes and has internodes that are 20 to 30 centimeters long.
A maize plant has separate male and female flowers. The top of the stem ends in the tassel, which is an inflorescence of male flowers. The ears are female inflorescences, which grow on the side of the stem. These female inflorences are covered by several layers of leaves.
Maize leaves are often 50 to 100 centimeters long and about 5 to 10 centimeters wide. Each node of the stem produces a leaf.
The maize grains are about the size of a pea. The seeds sit in regular rows on a whitish core, which forms the ear. In most varieties the seeds have an orange or yellowish color, sometimes purple. Some varieties have ears with mixed seeds of different colors.
Climate and weather:
Maize grows in a wide range of climates and can be found in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world.
Maize pollen is dispersed by the wind.
Maize plants are usually 2 to 3 meters tall, but shorter and taller varieties exist.
Type of soil:
Maize does not like poor soils that are deficient in nutrients.
Maize needs sufficient water in the soil. It is susceptible to drought because it has only a shallow root system.
Maize is an annual grass grown as a cereal.
Spacing (close range)
60 x 20 centimeters (60 cm between rows, 20 cm within
Spacing (wide range)
80 x 40 centimeters
Maize is propagated by seed.
Quite a number of insects attack maize plants. the most important ones are: corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), several stemborers or stalk borers and aphids. The maize weevil can attack standing maize, but also stored maize products.
Some common diseases of maize include: corn smut, maize streak virus, and common rust.
In small plots, maize is usually harvested by hand. In large commercial plots, machines (combine harvesters) are used, which can reaps, thresh and clean the crop in one operation.
There are many uses for maize. Many food products contain ingredients that are made of maize. Common use includes: breakfast cereals, cooking oil, corn starch (as a thickener), popcorn, as a vegetable (sweet corn). But also many non food products contain maize, for example: batteries, adhesives, drugs, plastics, soap, and whisky.
Proverbs and Quotes
- Very good corn grows in little fields.
- Barren corn makes bitter bread.
- Measure the corn of others with your own bushel.
- Good corn is not reaped from a bad field.
- The heaviest ear of corn bends its head lowest.
- When planning for a year, plant maize. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.
- Praise the ripe field not the green corn.
- Never thrust your sickle into another’s corn.
- It is in the eyes of a lazy man that maize will ripen.
- Not all the baboons that enter a maize field come out satisfied.
- Green maize abounds at the houses of those without teeth.
- If you wish to make an impact for one year, plant corn; if you wish to make an impact for a generation, plant a tree; if you wish to make an impact for an eternity, educate a child.
- Maize cannot get justice in a chicken’s court.
- When arguing with a chicken a grain of corn is always wrong.
- He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.
- If you cure a monkey of its tooth ache its your maize farm that suffers.
- You can never sow rice and expect to harvest maize.
- Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field. (Dwight David Eisenhower)
- The Christian is like the ripening corn; the riper he grows the more lowly he bends his head.
- A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine. (Anne Bronte)
- Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together. (Jonathan Swift)
- Corn is a greedy crop, as farmers will tell you. (Michael Pollan)
- Then plough deep while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep. (Benjamin Franklin)
- In the age of acorns, before the times of Ceres, a single barley-corn had been of more value to mankind than all the diamonds of the mines of India. (Henry Brooke)
Did you know that?
- The Indian word maiz means: ‘sacred mother’ or ‘giver over life’.
- Maize is grown in all continents, except Antarctica.
- Maize production in Africa is often not more than 1 or 2 tons per hectare, but in developed countries yields of 8 to 9 tons per hectare are very common, and farmers can sometimes reach 11 tons/ha.
- Cornstarch is used in the manufacture of soda pop, chewing gum, ice cream, peanut butter, library paste, ketchup, automobile paint, embalming fluid, gunpowder, insecticides, deodorants, soap, potato chips, surgical dressings, nail polish, foot powder, salad dressing, and several hundred things more. (In: At Home, by: Bill Bryson)
- In Britain corn has meant any grain since the time of the Anglo-Saxons. It also came to signify any small round object, which explains the corns on your feet. Corned beef is so called because originally it was cured in kernels of salt. Because of the importance of maize in America, the word corn became attached to maize exclusively in the early eighteenth century. (In: At Home, by: Bill Bryson)
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