• Flour corn — Zea mays var. amylacea
  • Popcorn — Zea mays var. everta
  • Dent Corn — Zea mays var. indentata
  • Flint Corn— Zea mays var. indurata
  • Sweet Corn— Zea mays var. saccharata and Zea mays var. rugosa
  • Waxy Corn— Zea mays var. ceratina
  • Amylomaize--- Zea mays
  • Pod corn — Zea mays var. tunicata Larrañaga ex A. St. Hil.
  • Striped maize — Zea mays var. japonica

Part A: Botanical Information

Corn (Zea mays) or maize is a member of Graminae (Poacecae) family which is also known as the grass family. Corn is a monocot and has just one cotyledon or seed leaf. A single corn plant contains both male and female flowers depending on the location in the plant. The part people have eaten as a common vital vegetable for thousands of year is located inside the ear of corn.

An ear of corn is actually just a female flower stalk that is resting between the covers of the lead and stem. The lone part of the female flower that be seen when the plant is growing are the hairs of the corn that are known as silks. As previously stated male flowers and female flowers are found on different parts of the plant. Males are usually at the top so some of the pollen will fall onto the silks of immature corn.

The silks are a vital part of the plant in that they serve as tubes to transfer pollen when released from the male flower. Corn plants can grow to be up to close to 10 feet tall. The crop has changed a great deal throughout its rich history, and today, around 85% of the crop in the United States is genetically modified.

A mural of an Indian farming corn

Part B: History

Many scientists believe that corn was developed close to 7000 years ago by inhabitants of central Mexico. Indians throughout North and South America depended on this crop as a large part of their diet. Corn made its way into the United States around 1000 years ago. Before Columbus discovered America in 1492, corn had not yet made its way to Europe. Columbus introduced corn to Spain shortly after arriving in America and then corn began to spread around the world.

The U.S. is currently the largest producer of corn and the crop it is still the largest crop produced by the U.S. Dishes involving corn range from just serving it on the cob to making it into a chowder or bread. The creativity of the Native Americans in finding new ways to use corn kept the crop from being the same at every meal that it was a part of. It’s important to realize that although corn is mostly used for food, it has a wide variety of other uses. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, "Corn is also processed into a multitude of food and industrial products including starch, sweeteners, corn oil, beverage and idustrial alcohol, and fuel ethanol." These alternative uses and the geographic distribution of corn are illustrated on the charts below.

Different uses for corn
Geographic distribution of corn production

Part C: Economic Outlook and Current year market outlook

In the United States, Corn is the largest crop and the domestic market for the crop totaled just shy of 67 billion in 2010. The price of corn can be affected by many different factors. For instance, if the production of ethanol rises, higher corn prices will occur because corn is used to produce ethanol (See Chart Above). Also, when the amount of land used to farm corn increases, the price of America’s second largest crop, the Soybean, will increase because less land will be used to farm the crop. The prices of meats and poultry are also affected by corn because this multipurpose crop is used as feed for the livestock. In the the United States, there are an astounding eighty million acres that are solely devoted to corn with a large portion of this being used to feed livestock. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, "the United States is a major player in the world corn trade market, with approximately 20 percent of the corn crop exported to other countries."

Recent information for the year 2011 by the USDA stated that as a country have just shy of 3.7 billion corn bushels while trade only called for 3.3 billion. A possible reason of this could that the demand for corn this year has shrunk compared to previous years. In July 2011, the CattleNetwork reported that "corn prices are expected to retreat in early dealings, dragging wheat, as weather has improved for the US corn crop. Strength in the U.S. dollar should add pressure to the markets, as it makes US grains less attractive to foreign buyers."

Part D: Teosinte: Wild Card

Did you know that modern corn is an evolved form of teosinte? Teosinte (zea) is a member of the poaceae family which is indigenous to Mexico Guatemala and Nicaragua. Before influenced the evolution of corn, teosinte was just a food plant that caterpillar and other animals fed on. Check out this picture of teosinte.....looks a little bit like corn right?



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"The Great Corn Adventure." The University of Illinois. Web. 24 July 2011. <>.
Hagenbaugh, Barbara. "Corn has deep economic roots as high prices create ripple effect." USA Today 24 Jan. 2007: USA Today Online. Web. 20 July 2011. <>.

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