Fun Facts about Corn

Corn, also called maize, is grown on every continent except Antarctica.  Corn was first grown as a crop by Native Americans, probably in the country that is now Mexico more than 7,000 years ago.  Agriculture of corn was practiced throughout the Americas, from Peru into Canada.  Corn even used to be used as currency in some places.  When Europeans arrived in the Americas, the natives taught them how to grow corn and the Europeans brought the plants and knowledge back to their homelands.  The first windmills that we have a record of were used in present-day Iran for grinding corn.  Corn is a staple food that is produced in greater volume than any other grain in the world.  About 800 million tons of corn are produced annually around the world.  More than half of the world’s corn comes from the United States.  Half of the corn grown in the United States is fed to livestock.  Hybrid corn is predominantly grown throughout the world and has been selectively bred to produce high yields and to ensure that the plants are as healthy and hearty as possible.

Corn is a type of grass and the number of rows on a kernel is always an even number.  The average ear of corn has sixteen rows and a total of 800 kernels.  Corn plants typically grow between seven and ten feet tall.  Corn silk must be pollinated in order for corn kernels to grow.  There is one strand of silk for each kernel on a cob.  Corn is a major source of starch in many diets in the world.  Corn is used to create corn syrup, a sweetener that is many times sweeter and cheaper than sugar.  Corn can also be used to make plastic, paper and countless other products.  Seventy-five percent of all items found in grocery stores contain corn or come from animals who were fed on corn.

Popcorn is a favorite snack.  The type of corn used to make popcorn has moisture inside that turns to steam when heated and builds the pressure inside the kernel.  Popcorn is one of the most common uses for microwaves and most microwaves have a special button just for popcorn.  Popcorn is a different type of corn than corn that somebody might eat for dinner and corn that is used to feed livestock.  The variety of corn that we generally use as corn-on-the-cob wasn’t developed until the 1800s.  The kernel explodes and becomes popped corn.

The use of corn to produce ethanol is gaining popularity as a renewable fuel resource in the United States.  The increased demand for corn for ethanol production has caused the price of corn to rise steadily in the past few years.  There are many advocacy groups that are opposed to the use of corn to produce ethanol, citing that it is detracting from the world’s food supply.  Additionally, some people claim that it takes more resources to produce ethanol than the ethanol itself saves.  Whatever the future of corn as a biofuel, corn in one form or another will continue to be extremely important to people all over the world as it has been for centuries.

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