Corn: Origin, History, Technology, and Production

Corn: Origin, History, Technology, and Production

Corn: Origin, History, Technology, and Production

Corn: Origin, History, Technology, and Production

Synopsis

Your all-in-one guide to corn. This book provides practical advice on planting techniques and rates, seed production, treating plant diseases, insect infestation and weeds, harvesting, processing, and worldwide utilization. This is the fourth, and final, volume in the series of comprehensive references on the major crops of the world.
  • Covers new biotechnology techniques for plant breeding and pest management
  • Provides practical advice on planting techniques and rates, seed production, treating plant diseases, insect infestation and weeds, harvesting, processing and worldwide utilization.

Excerpt

The gift of the Americas, corn, was “discovered” by the exploring Europeans on November 5, 1492. From this encounter, corn culture spread to most of the eastern hemisphere within 100 years; Italy and southern France by 1494, Egypt by 1517, northern Spain and all of Portugal by 1525, northern Europe by 1571, the Balkan Peninsula by 1575; and all of Africa, India, and parts of the Far East during the sixteenth century. But long before its discovery by the Europeans, corn was known throughout the Americas with distinct races selected by man and nature. In addition to the natural selection that occurs when a species is moved outside its center of origin, human selection pressure had resulted in types preferred for boiling, roasting, popping, milling, and brewing by the time Columbus discovered the New World. While corn was destined to become the leading feed grain in the world, it was an integral part of the human diet in the Americas during pre-Columbian times. Today, this versatile grain not only is used directly for feed and food, but it serves as a renewable resource for a plethora of processed foods and industrial products.

The development of hybrid corn as a model system and as a commercial operation stands as one of the seminal accomplishments in all of agricultural science. Although many scientists and forward-thinking business people were instrumental in the development of corn hybrids, the visions of two men serve to demonstrate the “can do” attitude of the American agriculturalist. Lester Pfister, a school dropout, began developing inbred lines of the cultivar Krug in 1922. Despite the laughter of neighbors, who ridiculed the young man for putting paper bags over corn tassels, and the threat of bankruptcy by 1933, Lester succeeded in developing a superior doublecross hybrid that outyielded the best open-pollinated cultivars of his day so dramatically that within five years he was grossing $1 million in annual seed sales. In 1926, Henry A. Wallace, later to be Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President of the United States under F. D. Roosevelt, and Secretary of Commerce under Harry Truman, helped launch the Hi-Bred Corn Company, later Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. Wallace also is credited with developing the first commercial hybrid sold in Iowa. Area devoted to hybrid corn in the United States went from 1% of corn hectarage in 1933 to 78% by 1943 and to over 90% by 1960. Today, essentially all corn hectarage in the United States is planted to single-cross or modified single-cross hybrids. Improved hybrids, along with other agricultural innovations and technology, have resulted in average U.S. yield increasing from about 1600 kg/ha (26 bushels/acre) in the 1920s to 8667 kg/ha (138 bushels/acre) in 2001.

Corn is grown in virtually every country in the world today, with a total production of more than 575 million megagrams (23 billion bushels) on 135 million hectares (335 million acres). The United States and the PRC account for over 61% of total . . .

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