Friday, 13 September 2013 14:52

How does Corn grow?

Did you know corn is native to North America?

  • Latin Name:

    Zea mays (Maize)

  • Growth:

    How is corn grown?

    U.S. Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. Click here to view USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map.

    Corn is an annual, a member of the grass family, that grows in full sun and loamy soil. After planting, a long season is needed before the first frost kills the plant.  Kernels develop in the heat of summer and need plenty of water.

    Spring: Soil is prepared and seeds sown directly into the ground two weeks after the last possible frost. 

    Summer:  Plant grows and matures during long summer days. 

    Fall: Harvest..

    Winter: Fields lie dormant. 

    Time Lapse of Sprouting Corn Growth

  • Propagation:

    How is corn propagated?

    Reproductive process starts when the stalk reaches two-thirds of its full height. The straw-colored tassels near the top are the "male" flowers of the plant. A few days after the tassels appear, the stigma of the female appears slightly lower on the stalk. Each silk fiber corresponds to a single kernel, and each kernel must be pollinated in order to have a completely filled ear. Corn is wind-pollinated, so it is planted in blocks instead of rows. There are early-, mid- and late-season varieties that extend the picking season.

  • Harvest:

    When is corn ready for harvest?

    -Corn is ready to be picked when tassels start to brown and ears swell.

    -Harvest begins when the kernels are full of liquid or "milk". This stage occurs about 20 days after the appearance of the first silk strands.

    - If the corn is not harvested at this stage, the kernel will begin to transform the "milk" sugars into  starch causing the the ear to harden and lose its sweetness. 

    -If a corn crop is "knee high by the fourth of July," the harvest will be abundant. 

    -When harvesting,  the ears are snapped off with a quick, firm, downward pull twist.

    -Commercial growers use mechanized harvesters for a quicker, more efficient harvest. 

    -After the harvest, the cornstalks are cut, shredded and composted back into the ground to maintain soil fertility. 

    -Corn should be eaten soon after picking as the sugar to starch process continues after harvest

    Kansas Family Farm Corn Harvest

  • Storage:

    How is corn stored?

    Store freshly picked corn in the refrigerator - eat as soon as possible.

    Freeze corn by striping the cob of its kernels, then store the kernels in a sealed container, and freeze.

    To preserve corn, freezing maintains the best quality, but it can also be canned, pickled, and relished.

  • History:

    Where does corn come from?

    Corn is native to the Americas. It was domesticated thousands of years ago by the Aztec and Mayan Indians, from Central and South America. Corn was a a major staple crop for these civilizations.

    When Europeans arrived in the Americas, corn became a major food source for the growing colonies. It is still more popular in the Americas as a food item than in the rest of the world where it is grown mainly as animal food.

    It is now also grown and processed into ethanol which is then added to petroleum products.

  • Top Producers:

    Which countries produce the most corn?

    The U.S, Brazil, Argentina, China, and the European Union. The U.S has 80 million acres of land reserved for corn production! The total production for 2012-13 is currently reported at 11.3 billion bushels. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota are the top 5 U.S states that produce the most corn.

  • Varieties:

    What are some corn varieties?

    Corn can be divided into four basic groups: field corn, popcorn, ornamental corn, and sweet corn.

    Sweet corn is divided into three distinct types: normal sugary (SU), super sweet (Sh2), and sugar enhanced(SE).

    Kernel colors for sweet corn include including yellow, white and bicolor. Corn grown for animal feed or decorative purposes comes in many colors and in multi-color varieties.

    Ask a Farmer: Varieties of Corn

  • Products:

    What are some common corn uses?

    Corn has food, livestock feed, and industrial uses. 

    Ethanol is an important byproduct produced from corn. It is mainly used as an oxygenate in gasoline which helps to produce a decreased need for gasoline by creating a low-level blend.

    One bushel of corn can produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol.

    The two main types of corn processing includes wet milling and dry milling. 

    Wet milling turns corn into high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil, beverage alcohol, industrial alcohol, glucose, dextrose, and fuel. 

    Dry milling turns corn into corn flour, grits, meal, brewers grits for beer production, and flakes for cereal. 

    When preparing to eat corn on the cob, boiling is the traditional method. However it can be grilled, roasted, steamed, and microwaved. When boiling, avoid adding salt to the water because it may cause the kernels to toughen and overcook. 

  • Top Health Benefits:

    What are some health benefits found in corn?

    Sweet corn is fibrous, and high in vitamin A, niacin, and folate.

    Fiber is great for the intestinal track, and keeps it running smoothly.

    Folate has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

More in this category: Corn time lapse video »