The first European exposure to corn was about 500 years ago. Europeans called it corn because that was the common name for other grains. Seed was moved to Europe where it spread from even further to Africa and Asia, again with locals selecting for adaptation to their conditions. This included a wide range of required time from planting to harvest, disease pressure and local food uses.
Within the USA, corn that moved through the Southwest and then north and east tended to be flint types whereas the Southeast corn was floury types perhaps with genetics influenced by Caribbean corn migration. Flint corns in the Northeast USA tended to have fewer kernel rows than the semi-dent types of the southeast. As people became more stationary, with each farmer having the opportunity to save seed that favored their environment, food and livestock needs, multiple uniquely genetic varieties developed across the continent. Although local selections were based upon gross performance, ultimately selections were having effects on root structures, photosynthesis parameters, moisture stress tolerance, germination in cool soils, and disease resistance. Separation of the male and female flowers of corn became a major asset to avoid complete inbreeding as farmers kept desirable ears to save for the next season. Most pollen from an individual corn plant does not fall on its own silk, almost guaranteeing cross pollination in open fields. Until 80 years ago, open pollinated varieties were the sources of corn, with yields in the USA usually less than 30 bushels per acre.
Visit us at the ASTA in Chicago, Dec 9-12 (booth G207)
About Corn Journal
The purpose of this blog is to share perspectives of the biology of corn, its seed and diseases in a mix of technical and not so technical terms with all who are interested in this major crop. With more technical references to any of the topics easily available on the web with a search of key words, the blog will rarely cite references but will attempt to be accurate. Comments are welcome but will be screened before publishing. Comments and questions directed to the author by emails are encouraged.