That corn seed, soon to be or recently planted in the northern hemisphere field, has a history. Its ancient ancestor was chosen by someone 8-10000 years ago who found a plant, or perhaps a clump of plants in which the seeds were not totally enclosed inside the usual hard fruit covering of most Teosinte plants. This person, or people, decided to save some of this seed, perhaps because the expanded endosperm would offer a source of more food. From that choice, this annual plant became increasingly affected by people choosing mutants that met their uses. Separation of the male and female flowering structures, a decent mutation rate, annual reproduction, ease of transport by migrating humans all contributed to the variability in this new species selected by people.
People remain an important part of each generation of corn. The combination of academic theory of inbreeding and hybridization had a dramatic effect on corn production- and decisions that led to choosing that seeds genetics. Experience and academics led to better understanding of which combinations of inbreds lead to better hybrids. This combination of knowledge also contributes to the breeding techniques, the evaluations for the best hybrids and the production of high quality seed. Its history includes a major effort to reach the dual goal producing a seed meeting the need to germinate, grow into a plant in multiple environments and result in a product profitable to the grower.
As we sophisticate techniques in developing and growing this species, we shouldn't overlook that the real gains were made by many women and men over its long history that moved this weed to a productive crop. That seed we plant today remains dependent upon people, just as it did thousands of years ago.
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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.