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Corn

CORN


CORN. Although the exact origins of Indian corn, or maize, are unknown, American Indians probably first grew it in prehistoric times in Peru, Bolivia, or the highlands of Mexico. By the time Europeans arrived in the New World, Indians on both American continents grew a variety of corn types, including sweet corn and popcorn. Indians helped secure the survival of the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements by supplying them with corn, and later taught English settlers to grow their own in hills fertilized with fish. Corn proved itself an ideal frontier crop. The grain could be eaten green, or parched and ground into meal to make cornbread or johnny cakes. It also made an excellent feed for hogs, cattle, and poultry. Finally, any surplus corn could be distilled into whiskey, either for home consumption or for sale.

In areas north of Virginia, settlers found a variety of corn known as flint, an early maturing type that continued to be grown well into the nineteenth century. This corn, usually yellow in color, kept well because of the hardness of its kernels. Farther south, white gourdseed corn dominated. The soft-kerneled gourdseed matured later and produced a heavier yield than the northern flint variety. Prior to the Civil War, corn was the South's most widely grown agricultural product, exceeding even cotton as the region's most valuable crop.

Although haphazard mixing of these two varieties undoubtedly occurred from time to time, the first record of their conscious mixing came in 1812. John Lorain of Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, demonstrated that particular mixtures of gourdseed and flint varieties yielded much greater harvests while retaining many of flint's desirable qualities. The varieties resulting from the work of Lorain and others were known as "dents." One famous variety, Robert Reid's yellow dent, came into being in 1847, largely by accident. The previous year, Reid had planted in Illinois a light reddish-colored variety that he had brought with him from Ohio; when a poor stand resulted, Reid used a small early, yellow variety, probably a flint, to replant the missing hills. The Reid family then developed the resulting successful mixture into a yellow dent that later came to dominate the corn belt.

Even as the yellow dents were making the American corn belt one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, research workers were developing hybrids to replace them. Drawing first upon the theories of Charles Darwin and then upon those of Gregor Mendel, a number of American researchers published studies showing how corn could be bred for certain characteristics, including high yield. They included William James Beal of Michigan State College (1876), George Shull of Princeton University, and Edward M. East (1908), H. K. Hayes (1912), and Donald F. Jones (1919, working with East) of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1926 the Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Company offered hybrid-corn seed for sale on a continuing commercial basis, and thereafter more and more companies competed to provide the new hybrid seeds. As farmers adopted the new hybrids, corn yields increased at a spectacular rate, and by the end of World War II, the hybrids dominated American corn growing. From 1910 to 1919 the average acre yielded 26 bushels of corn; by 1971 it was 87 bushels. Yield increased to 118 bushels per acre in 1990 and to about 140 bushels per acre in 2000.

Corn spred throughout the world from the Americas. Just prior to World War I, the United States produced two-thirds of the world supply—about one-half of the national total originating in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Mexico, Hungary, Argentina, Rumania, and Italy were the next leading nations in corn production. The production of corn as a food crop on a worldwide basis expanded greatly after 1950. The Rockefeller Foundation made a particular effort in an experimental center in Mexico to develop improved hybrids and methods for worldwide production, with emphasis on the tropics and subtropics. By 1973 the United States produced only one-half of the world total (143,344,000 metric tons), followed by the People's Republic of China (25,000,000), Brazil (15,200,000), and the Soviet Union (13,440,000).

Of the nearly 80 million acres of corn harvested annually in the United States, 86 percent is used for grain and the remainder for forage and silage. About 40 percent of the grain is fed to hogs, 25 percent to other livestock, and 15 percent to poultry. About 10 percent of the grain is exported, and the remaining 10 percent is industrially processed. Processed corn contributes to the manufacture of many products, including breakfast foods, corn meal, flour, and grits, as well as cornstarch, corn syrup, corn sugar, corn oil, and alcohol. Alcohol, lactic acid, and acetone are in turn used in the manufacture of hundreds of different products.

Since 1933, federal agricultural legislation has attempted to adjust production to demand and to ensure fair prices to farmers, affecting both the size and the value of the country's annual harvest.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mangelsdorf, Paul C. Corn: Its Origin, Evolution, and Improvement. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Wallace Henry A., and William L. Brown. Corn and Its Early Fathers. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1988.

Weatherwax, Paul. Indian Corn in Old America. New York: Macmillan, 1954.

Wayne D.Rasmussen/c. w.

See alsoAgriculture ; Cereal Grains .

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"Corn." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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corn

corn, in botany. The name corn is given to the leading cereal crop of any major region. In England corn means wheat; in Scotland and Ireland, oats. The grain called corn in the United States is Indian corn or maize (Zea mays mays). The part of the United States where most of the corn is grown, including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, is known as the Corn Belt.

The Corn Plant

The corn plant has a pithy noded stalk supported by prop roots. The staminate (male) flowers form the tassel at the top of the plant. The pistillate (female) flowers are the kernels on the cob, which is enclosed by a leafy husk beyond which extend threadlike styles and stigmas (the silk), which catch the pollen. The corn plant with its ornamental tassel and ears has been a motif of American art since prehistoric times.

The plant is a grass that was domesticated and cultivated in the Americas long before Europeans reached the New World; genetic and archaeological evidence indicates it was first domesticated c.7000 BC Corn has dramatically changed from the ancestral wild grass that was its original form, teosinte (Zea species), a tropical American fodder plant in which the seeds are not united in a cob. It has been so adapted to cultivation that it cannot sustain itself without human cultivation. The Native Americans had many varieties of corn, e.g., sweet corn, popcorn, and corn for corn meal. White, yellow, red, and blue corn were grown as distinct strains.

Development of Hybrids

The easily produced and readily identifiable strains of corn made it a favorite subject for experimental genetics. The development of hybrid corn seed was an early (beginning of the 20th cent.) and revolutionary introduction of the principles of theoretical science into practical agriculture. At first ridiculed, the scientifically developed hybrids came to represent most commercially grown corn types. They resulted in higher yields, increased sugar and lowered starch content, and uniform plants bred to specification for mechanical harvesting. Most recently, genetic engineering has produced corn with added sweetness, disease resistance, and other desired traits.

Uses

As human food, corn is eaten fresh or ground for meal. It is the basic starch plant of Central and Andean South America, where it is still hand ground on metates to be made into tamales, tortillas, and other staple dishes. In the S United States it is familiar as hominy, mush, and grits. Starch, sugar, and oil are also extracted for many products, but the chief use of corn is as animal fodder. It is the primary feed grain of the United States, and in Europe this is almost the only use of corn. Corn is also as a raw material in the manufacture of ethanol for fuel.

Bibliography

See P. C. Mangelsdorf, Corn (1974); J. C. Hudson, Making the Corn Belt (1994).

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"corn." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"corn." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/corn

Corn

CORN


Corn was first cultivated in Mexico where early Indians grew grasses that were the grain's ancestors. These grasses were steadily improved between 5000 b.c. and 2000 b.c.. By the time of the Aztec (c. 1325), corn had become the primary food source in central Mexico. As the Aztec came into contact with other Indian peoples, the cultivation of corn spreadreaching the Maya in southern Mexico and Central America, the Inca in South America, the native peoples in the Caribbean, and as far as the Canadian tribes in the north.

The grain was unknown to Europeans at this time. It was Christopher Columbus (14511506) who, upon his arrival in Cuba in 1492, discovered corn and took it with him when he returned home. By the end of the sixteenth century corn was well established as a crop and a primary food source in southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. During the next century corn became a staple of the colonial diet. European settlers in America learned from the Indians how to cultivate, harvest, and process the grain. In the late 1500s Virginia farmers planted their fields according to the Indian method, producing a much higher yield per acre (200 versus 40 bushels). From cornmeal colonists made mush (also known as hasty pudding), grits, hoecake (an unleavened cake), and bread. Hominy (a dish made of softened corn), succotash (a corn and bean casserole), and roasted corn were also widely consumed. Bourbon whiskey was made out of corn in Kentucky in 1789 and its popularity soon eclipsed that of brandy or rum in the American colonies.

To keep up with growing demand for this versatile grain, growers became commercialized during the 1800s. They were aided by the development of the mechanical planter and other farm machinery. In 1870 U.S. corn production topped one billion bushels for the first time. This figure doubled in the next 15 years so that in 1885 production stood at two billion bushels. Still, more uses for corn were yet to be found. By the end of the nineteenth century corn would be mixed with oats to produce a superior feed for livestock. It was also added to pancake mix. Corn was made into flakes in a breakfast cereal introduced by American physician and entrepreneur John H. Kellogg (18521943). Throughout the twentieth century new uses combined with a growing population to produce an ever-increasing demand.

See also: Aztec, Inca, Kellogg's, Maya

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"Corn." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Corn

Corn

Corn, Indian corn, or maize is one of three grasses that account for almost half of all human calories consumed. The seed of these grasses are called cereals and each developed in a distinct part of the world: corn in the Americas, specifically Mexico/Guatemala (where its name is derived from the Arawak-Carib word mahiz, when Christopher Columbus first encountered the grain on the island of Cuba), and wheat and rice in the Old World. Corn was and still is the most important food plant for the indigenous people of the Americas. Its cultivation stretched from the Gaspé Peninsula of eastern Canada to Chile in South America. It is grown from sea level to elevations of ten thousand feet in the Andes.

Origin of Corn

Most of the corn grown in the developed world is from improved hybrid seed while subsistence farmers plant mostly open-pollinated farmer-selected varieties called landraces. There are approximately three hundred landraces of corn, each with its own geographic/climatic zone where it is most productive. Even commercial hybrid corn in the United States belongs to a recognized landrace, which is called Corn Belt Dent.

Three distinct views on the origin of corn exist within the scientific community: 1) corn evolved from an extinct wild corn, 2) corn evolved from its closest relative, teosinte, and 3) corn evolved after hybridization of either wild corn or teosinte with a more distant relative in the genus Trip-sacum. During the 1960s there was widespread support for the idea of wild corn as the ancestor of the domesticated form. In contrast, in the 1980s the theory holding greatest currency was that of teosinte as the progenitor of corn. Recent research suggests that Tripsacum has had a role.

Although there are distinctly different hypotheses regarding the ancestry of corn, all agree on the basic circumstances surrounding its origin. The ecosystem that gave rise to corn had almost frost-free, seasonally dry winters alternating with summer rains, and highland (above 1,500 meters). Sometime between 5000 and 3000 B. C. E., corn appeared in Mesoamerica (Mexico and Guatemala), most probably along the western escarpment of south central Mexico in an arc within five hundred kilometers of present-day Mexico City. This location also describes the major area occupied by the closest relatives of corn, both annual and perennial teosinte, and numerous species in the genus Tripsacum. Corn and teosinte are unique among the grasses because the male and female flowers are borne in separate structures: the ear, or female seed-bearing cob, is carried half way down the stem while the male central spike, or tassel, is at the top of the stem. In the early stages of domestication the ear was small (one to three centimeters) yielding no more than fifty small, hard, popcornlike seeds. Archaeo-logical corn remains, from cave sites dating back to 3000 B. C. E.in Tehuacán, Mexico, match the above description perfectly. In contrast, modern corn yields a massive ear (25 to 30 centimeters) producing more than 750 seeds. This modern corn plant is unable to disperse its seed because of the unique husk and cob structure where the seed do not fall free at maturity as in all wild plants. Humans must harvest, shell, and plant the seed for maize to exist.

Modern Corn

Modern corn is a single species, Zea mays, with five kinds of seeds based primarily on the storage starch of the endosperm . The earliest corns were popcorn types with a hard protein rind that held moisture in the starch, and when heated they exploded. Seeds that have a soft starch are called flour corns; sugary varieties are called sweet corn, which are often eaten immature when the sugar content is highest relative to starch; hard-starch varieties are called flint corn; and dent corn, which is intermediate between flour and flint, has a characteristic small dent or dimple at the top of the kernel. Dent corn is the most common form grown in the Corn Belt of the United States (ac-counting for one-half of the world's total production, valued at fifteen billion dollars). On commodity markets it is called #2 yellow dent. Much of this goes into animal feeds or is used in the chemical and processing industries.

Corn seed is used industrially to make ethyl, butyl, or propyl alcohol; acetaldehyde; acetone; glycerol; and acetic, citric, or lactic acids by fermentation then distillation. Wet milling produces zein, a protein used to make polyurethane, corn starch, and specialty corn products such as high fructose corn syrup (widely used as a sweetener and replacement for sucrose or cane sugar in candies and baked and processed foods).

In the Americas (excluding the United States and Canada) corn is the mainstay of the diet and the preferred cereal. This is also true for east Africa, south Africa, and regions around the Mediterranean and southeastern Europe. More than half of the dietary calories in both Guatemala and Kenya are accounted for by corn alone. In Mexico corn is eaten in tortillas (an un-leavened, griddle-toasted flat bread), tamales (dough steamed in corn husks and often stuffed with meat and chilies), atole (roasted, ground corn flour beverage) or elotes (roasted or steamed ears). In the southern United States it is consumed as grits (boiled, cracked endosperm from which the bran and embryo or germ have been separated), hominy (entire kernels soaked in lye, then washed and boiled). Corn on the cob and corn chips are eaten nationwide. Cornflakes, invented in the United States, are made from toasted rolled grits; they started the boxed cold cereal breakfast a century ago. Popcorn is both an ancient form of consuming corn and a modern one as it comes freshly popped from the microwave. In Andean countries corn is fermented by first a salivation process to convert starch to sugar and then fermentation by yeast to produce Chicha. Pombay beer is made from corn in Africa; whiskey made from corn is called bourbon whiskey.

Corn kernels or seeds are much larger than either rice or wheat but on a per-weight basis the three supply approximately the same energy as measured in calories. Corn has less protein than wheat and is deficient in the essential amino acids tryptophan and lysine. In the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica this deficiency never appeared because corn and beans were eaten together and the combination formed a complementary protein supplying all the essential amino acids. Only when corn alone forms a major part of the diet, as in diets of poverty, do we see malnutrition. The corn kernel, especially the germ or embryo, is rich in oil and the grain is a good source of the B vitamins except for niacin. The low content of niacin can lead to the deficiency disease pellagra, historically prevalent in the South until the 1930s and still common in parts of Africa where corn is consumed. Corn grain is an outstanding feed for pigs, cattle, and chickens; the entire plant cut up and made into silage is a major food for milk cows. Americans consume much more corn as pork, beef, eggs, and milk than we do from corn products directly. Corn is the largest harvest in the United States and the most valuable crop, but it is also Mexico's most significant gift to the world.

see also Agriculture, History of; Agriculture, Modern; Economic Importance of Plants; Fertilizer; Grains.

Garrison Wilkes

Bibliography

Mangelsdorf, Paul C. Corn: Its Origin, Evolution and Improvement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Purseglove, J. W. Tropical Crops: Monocotyledons. London: Longman, 1972.

Wallace, Henry A., and William L. Brown. Corn and Its Early Fathers, rev. ed. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1988.

Weatherax, Paul. Indian Corn in Old America. New York: Macmillan, 1955.

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Corn

Corn

First grown in Mexico about 5,000 years ago, corn soon became the most important food crop in Central and North America. Throughout the region, Native Americans, Maya, Aztecs, and other Indians worshiped corn gods and developed a variety of myths about the origin, planting, growing, and harvesting of corn (also known as maize).


Corn Gods and Goddesses. The majority of corn deities are female and associated with fertility. They include the Cherokee goddess Selu; Yellow Woman and the Corn Mother goddess Iyatiku of the Keresan people of the American Southwest; and Chicomecoatl, the goddess of maize who was worshiped by the Aztecs of Mexico. The Maya believed that humans had been fashioned out of corn, and they based their calendar on the planting of the cornfield.

Male corn gods do appear in some legends. The Aztecs had a male counterpart to Chicomecoatl, called Centeotl, to whom they offered their blood each year, as well as some minor corn gods known as the Centzon Totochtin, or "the 400 rabbits." The Seminole figure Fas-ta-chee, a dwarf whose hair and body were made of corn, was another male corn god. He carried a bag of corn and taught the Seminoles how to grow, grind, and store corn for food. The Hurons of northeastern North America worshiped Iouskeha, who made corn, gave fire to the Hurons, and brought good weather.

The Zuni people of the southwestern United States have a myth about eight corn maidens. The young women are invisible, but their beautiful dancing movements can be seen when they dance with the growing corn as it waves in the wind. One day the young god Paiyatemu fell in love with the maidens, and they fled from him. While they were gone, a terrible famine spread across the land. Paiyatemu begged the maidens to turn back, and they returned to the Zuni and resumed their dance. As a result, the corn started to grow again.


Origins of Corn. A large number of Indian myths deal with the origin of corn and how it came to be grown by humans. Many of the tales center on a "Corn Mother" or other female figure who introduces corn to the people.

In one myth, told by the Creeks and other tribes of the southeastern United States, the Corn Woman is an old woman living with a family that does not know who she is. Every day she feeds the family corn dishes, but the members of the family cannot figure out where she gets the food.

One day, wanting to discover where the old woman gets the corn, the sons spy on her. Depending on the version of the story, the corn is either scabs or sores that she rubs off her body, washings from her feet, nail clippings, or even her feces. In all versions, the origin of the corn is disgusting, and once the family members know its origin, they refuse to eat it.

deity god or goddess

The Corn Woman solves the problem in one of several ways. In one version, she tells the sons to clear a large piece of ground, kill her, and drag her body around the clearing seven times. However, the sons clear only seven small spaces, cut off her head, and drag it around the seven spots. Wherever her blood fell, corn grew. According to the story, this is why corn only grows in some places and not all over the world.

In another account, the Corn Woman tells the boys to build a corn crib and lock her inside it for four days. At the end of that time, they open the crib and find it filled with corn. The Corn Woman then shows them how to use the corn.

Other stories of the origin of corn involve goddesses who choose men to teach the uses of corn and to spread the knowledge to their people. The Seneca Indians of the Northeast tell of a beautiful woman who lived on a cliff and sang to the village below. Her song told an old man to climb to the top and be her husband. At first, he refused because the climb was so steep, but the villagers persuaded him to go.

When the old man reached the top, the woman asked him to make love to her. She also taught him how to care for a young plant that would grow on the spot where they made love. The old man fainted as he embraced the woman, and when he awoke, the woman was gone. Five days later, he returned to the spot to find a corn plant. He husked the corn and gave some grains to each member of the tribe. The Seneca then shared their knowledge with other tribes, spreading corn around the world.

Green Corn Dance

Native Americans of the Southeast hold a Green Corn Dance to celebrate the New Year. This important ceremony, thanking the spirits for the harvest, takes place in July or August. None of the new corn can be eaten before the ceremony, which involves rituals of purification and forgiveness and a variety of dances. Finally, the new corn can be offered to a ceremonial fire, and a great feast follows.

Mayan stories give the antor some other small creaturecredit for the discovery of corn. The ant hid the corn away in a hole in a mountain, but eventually the other animals found out about the corn and arranged for a bolt of lightning to split open the mountain so that they could have some corn too. The fox, coyote, parrot, and crow gave corn to the gods, who used it to create the first people. Although the gods' earlier attempts to create human beings out of mud or wood had failed, the corn people were perfect. However, the gods decided that their new creations were able to see too clearly, so they clouded the people's sight to prevent them from competing with their makers.

The Lakota Plains Indians say that a white she-buffalo brought their first corn. A beautiful woman appeared on the plain one day. When hunters approached her, she told them to prepare to welcome her. They built a lodge for the woman and waited for her to reappear. When she came, she gave four drops of her milk and told them to plant them, explaining that they would grow into corn. The woman then changed into a buffalo and disappeared.


Corn Mother. According to the Penobscot Indians, the Corn Mother was also the first mother of the people. Their creation myth says that after people began to fill the earth, they became so good at hunting that they killed most of the animals. The first mother of all the people cried because she had nothing to feed her children. When her husband asked what he could do, she told him to kill her and have her sons drag her body by its silky hair until her flesh was scraped from her bones. After burying her bones, they should return in seven months, when there would be food for the people. When the sons returned, they found corn plants with tassels like silken hair. Their mother's flesh had become the tender fruit of the corn.

Another Corn Mother goddess is Iyatiku, who appears in legends of the Keresan people, a Pueblo* group of the American Southwest. In the Keresan emergence story, Iyatiku leads human beings on a journey from underground up to the earth's surface. To provide food for them, she plants bits of her heart in fields to the north, west, south, and east. Later the pieces of Iyatiku's heart grow into fields of corn.

See also Aztec Mythology; Mayan Mythology; *=Native American Mythology.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

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corn

corn the chief cereal crop of a district, especially (in England) wheat or (in Scotland) oats.
corn dolly a symbolic or decorative model of a human figure, made of plaited straw.
corn in Egypt a plentiful supply; from Genesis 42:2.
Corn Laws in the UK, a series of 19th-century laws introduced to protect British farmers from foreign competition by allowing grain to be imported only after the price of home-grown wheat had risen above a certain level. They had the unintended effect of forcing up bread prices and were eventually repealed in 1846.

See also earn one's corn, a king's chaff is worth more than other men's corn.

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corn

corn 1 grain, seed, fruit of a cereal. OE. corn = OFris., OS., OHG., ON. korn, Goth. kaurn :- Gmc. *kurnam :- IE. *gṛnóm ‘worn down particle’, n. pp. of base *gr- *ger- wear away, grow old, whence also L. grānum GRAIN, OIr. grān, OSl. zrūno seed, Gr. graûs old woman, gérōn old man, Skr. jī́ryati wastes away, jīrṇá- wasted, old.
Hence corn vb. †make or become granular; sprinkle with salt in grains, preserve with salt (as corned beef). XVI. corncrake XV; see CRAKE.

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corn

corn1 / kôrn/ • n. 1. a North American cereal plant (Zea mays) that yields large grains, or kernels, set in rows on a cob. ∎  the grains of this. ∎ Brit. the chief cereal crop of a district, esp. (in England) wheat or (in Scotland) oats. 2. inf. something banal or sentimental: the movie is pure corn. corn2 • n. a small, painful area of thickened skin on the foot, esp. on the toes, caused by pressure.

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corn

corn Main cereal plant of a country or region. In Britain, corn normally refers to wheat, in North America to maize, and in Scandinavia to barley.

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corn

corn Term used in the UK for wheat, in the USA for maize, and sometimes for oats in Scotland and Ireland, originally any grain. See also maize.

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