Friday, June 22, 2012

Corn: the Worlds Most Amazing Grain

Glass gem corn.  This variety of corn is an amazing testament of the incredible genetic flexibility and diversity of corn.
Corn, its one of the worlds most amazing cultivated plants.  It may be the worlds most amazing cultivated plant.  Corn was originally domesticated many thousands of years ago by ancient Mesoamericans in Mexico.  Scientists have endlessly debated how corn originated but still lack answers. There is no wild plant that is a direct relative to corn and it may be some sort of weird mutant or hybrid of wild species.  Corn has no ability to survive without human intervention and therefore cannot be a wild plant in anyway.  Both the husk and cob prevent corn seeds from being distributed on their own and depend on humans to remove the husk to expose the seeds, and then remove the seeds from the cob so they can be planted.  Corn and people go hand and hand.  Both corn and people benefit, and in a very real sense depend on one another.  The spread of corn throughout ancient North America supported many large civilizations and empires.  When Cortez brought corn to the Old World it rapidly spread throughout Europe supporting population growth and aiding the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution.  It is very likely that without corn, there would not have been enough food to support these great Western civilization movements.

What makes Corn so amazing?  A big part of it is corns amazing genetics.  Corn has the ability to be selectively bred to adapt to environmental conditions so it can be grown anywhere from the equator all the way to the Arctic Circle.  And all the way from rainforests to deserts.  No other crop matches this diversity and ability to be selectively bred to adapt to so many conditions.  Amazingly, none of these genetics were a result of, or even needed modern molecular bioscience.  Even more amazing, modern molecular bioscience has reduced the overall diversity of corn by over 90 percent according to many estimates.  So called modern corn varieties developed by science also are more dependent on fertilizer, irrigation, and pesticides.  On the positive side though, modern science developed corn is extremely productive.

So think about it.  Pretty much no matter where your ancestors came from they probably ate quite a bit of corn a long the way.  And if you think about your diet now, you probably eat quite a bit of corn today also.  We all are very dependent on the amazing legacy of corn and it is very likely that without corn we wouldn't be here today.  On the flip-side without us, corn wouldn't be here either.


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    1. Thanks! This blog pretty much is another way for me to teach and share what I learn/know in the hopes that it can help someone out. Income from the blog is next to nothing.