A Short History of Corn

The cultivation of corn (maize) (Zea mays ssp. mays) began over 8,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, a geographical area which includes central and southern Mexico, and Central America. Corn was first domesticated from teosinte (Zea mexicana), an annual grass native to this region. Wild teosinte mostly has value as a fodder plant, as it provides very little edible seeds.

The first archaeological evidence of domesticated corn comes from the San Marcos cave in Tehuacan and the Guilá Naquitz cave in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The corn in San Marcos cave is dated to over 5,000 years ago. The cobs from the Guilá Naquitz cave were dated to over 6200 years old.

Researches believe that humans first domesticated corn by selecting the teosinte plants that had the largest amount of edible seeds until they eventually provided a substantial food source. This method probably took several generations to produce the corn we see today. In the process, humans have transformed corn into a plant that can no longer self-sow. Modern corn requires someone to break the hard, tightly bound cob and plant the seeds. Wild teosinte, however, is very fragile and the seeds easily fall off and grow new plants. Interestingly, without human interaction, modern corn would probably cease to exist.

Home gardeners who want to grow corn may choose from several different varieties including popcorn, dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, and sweet corn. Here we’ll focus on growing sweet corn as it is the most popular for the home gardener.

9 thoughts on “A Short History of Corn”

  1. I live in northern Va…..20141…. I am going to attempt growing sweet corn this year. I have a small plot to work with. When do i plant, what fertilizer, how deep? Any suggestions will be appreciated !!!!!!!!! Thanks, Jim White

  2. I recently planted some Silver Queen corn in my home garden. I know it’s a little early, but what the heck, we’ve had a few days – won’t hurt trying. After 3 or 4 days I scratched in a couple of places to discover small worms, similar to maggots, about 3/16″ long, attached to the seed. About a week later I scratched again to find only the seed coat remaining and a dozen or so of these little creatures. What is it and how do I treat it?

  3. I’m growing some corn and noticed a white streak growing from the stock all the way to the tip of one of its leaves. Does anyone know what that is? Please let me know. Thanks

  4. I have 20 corn plants and they have what looks like Anthracnose on the leaves looked up photos on the web). It’s only on a few leaves but I don’t know what to use to get rid of it. Help – I’m a first time gardner.

  5. For our school garden project, we planted a variety of corn which has triple stalks. Is this normal and good or is it an abnormality? Should we trim them to just one stalk or just let them go? Please advise.

  6. I have 12 60′ rows of four sweet corn varieties and we had straight winds last night to 70 mph and a lot of the corn is laying down. Should I stand the stalks up and put more soil around the base to hold them up,or leave them alone and hope they stand up on their own. The stalks are roughly 50 inches tall already. Thanks !

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