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.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

jim April 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm

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


Gerald April 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm

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?


Gabriel Perez April 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm

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


DEE May 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm

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.


Ashley May 6, 2011 at 3:57 am

when did people start to plant corn??


steve April 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

mid may to the end of may


Greg G May 16, 2011 at 10:28 pm

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.


MANNY May 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

when,and what do i use to prevent worms


ewan June 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

cutworm is the pest treat with synthetis pyrethroid


Dr Dennis Henson June 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm

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 !


JAMES RICKS December 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm



sherry July 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I too have triple stalks growing from one plant. I was unsure if this was a planting error on my part or the nature of how corn grows. Please advise. Thanks


Corny July 16, 2011 at 8:40 am

Buy some small rubber bands and when the silk forms put them on the end of ear. It will help I think.


Corny July 16, 2011 at 8:50 am

The big thing with corn, you need 3 or 4 rows as it polunates via wind only. So, the more rows the better. You can’t just grow one or two rows and have a decent outcome. You do need that room to grow corn and feed it. I have the old silver queen late, up a few inches in three rows, about 120 plants and looking good early on. Good luck!


Corny July 16, 2011 at 8:56 am

I heard tell that if you do have worms in your corn, you got some good corn!


Corny July 16, 2011 at 9:19 am

As to worms, they say if you have those, you have good corn. In addition the rubber bands, you may want to put a couple of drops of mineral oil on the silk as it forms.


http://www.bornagaintreasures.com July 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

Corn is not bothered by insects until the cob forms. That’s when you have to get busy to fight them.


vilcaboy August 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm

a mix of copper and lime spayed on the leaves will do the trick


P August 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Look for baby snails, they will feed up and down the leaf creating this striping.


Peter October 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

Can anyone knows how to let “sweet corn” keep fresh? Normally it can only keep fresh for 7 days.


LITTLE DEVIL.. January 26, 2012 at 10:23 pm

i seem 2 have problems with ants on my corn… what is the best thing 2 use 2 get rid of them…please help


George Toth May 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

What is a good fertilizer for sweet corn?


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