Sunday, December 1, 2013

Corn or Maize – World’s Emerging Number One Crop

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio, 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Thai corn is exported to the Philippines. Changmai Thailand 

Corn or Maize (Zea mays L) is the most important cereal in the world today, surpassing wheat and rice. It is because corn has a wide range of adaptability, from the tropics to the temperate and high elevation areas. And it comes in many varieties and cultivars - natural, hybrid and genetically modified - thus widening its cultivation and uses, including the production of medicine and biofuel.

What makes corn No.1?  Here are important reasons.  
  1. Yellow corn is the most important feed ingredient for poultry and livestock (up to 80 percent). The yellow pigment - carotene and xanthophyll group is rich in vitamins and it imparts attractive color to meat and eggs. Calories, protein and other nutrients in yellow corn compensate to a large extent for lack of costly feed supplement like fish meal.  
  1. Corn's response to increasing input (fertilizer) is higher than that of wheat or rice, reaching up to 12 MT per hectare, twice or more than either of the two staple crops. This means the ratio of  input and yield (Nitrogen:Grain) is wider, translated into higher productivity and income.  
  1. Inter-cropping of corn with legumes, like peanut and bean (e.g. mungbean, cowpea), is key to sustainable productivity: corn fixes Carbon (C4) which is shared with the companion crop (legume), while the latter being a Nitogen fixer  provides the needed nitrates (NO3) to both crops. After the crop season, the residual fixed compounds are kept in the soil which will be used by the next crop or crops.  
  1. Three Sisters cropping system is a modification of the dual inter-cropping, though practiced since ancient times by Mesoamerican farmers - the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, Olmecs -  by planting three crops at the same time: corn (C-fixer), bean (N-fixer), and squash which controls weeds and serves as mulch to reduce soil moisture evaporation, and soil nutrient loss due to ultraviolet rays. We can only imagine the ingenuity of these farmers centuries ago, albeit scientific explanation that accompanied their skill and art.   
  1. Corn offers different subspecies, varieties and cultivars to meet cultural preferences, food preparations, and other uses.
   Flour corn — Zea mays var. amylacea
·        Popcorn — Zea mays var. everta
·        Dent corn  — Zea mays var. indentata
·        Flint corn — Zea mays var. indurata
·        Sweet corn — Zea mays var. saccharata and Zea mays var. rugosa
·        Waxy corn — Zea mays var. ceratina
·        Amylomaize — Zea mays
·        Pod corn — Zea mays var. tunicata Larrañaga ex A. St. Hil.
·        Striped maize — Zea mays var. japonica. 

These categories have been modified through DNA analysis into multi-variable classification adopted by many research centers, particularly CIMMYT (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento del Maiz y Trigo) the world's leading corn center where, like IRRI for rice, keeps a germplasm bank for corn gathered from all over the world. Corn is perhaps one of the most studied crops, genetic studies on its genome has been completed. A Nobel prize was awarded to a certain  Barbara McClintock who discovered knob markers to validate her theory of "jumping genes" which is key to modern genetic taxonomic study of crop. 

6. Genetically modified corn is the most widely cultivated GMO in the world, with the US and Canada planting more than three-fourth of their land area to GM corn.The Philippines has recently joined other countries in GMO research and cultivation in spite of heavy objections.  It is estimated than a third of the world's corn crop is GMO.  Which means that people are eating and indirectly GM corn unaware and without warning. In September 2000, up to $50 million worth of Taco Bell's shells were recalled from its restaurants as well as supermarkets. The shells contained genetically modified corn that was unfit for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.(Wikipedia, underscore retained)

7. Corn is a major source of fuel. There is controversy as to whether corn as fuel is more important than human food particularly in developing countries. Whereas, in the US corn, being grown on large commercial scale, is not only the chief feed for the animal industry, but as source of alternative fuel to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The US is the world’s top producer of ethanol from corn with a production target of 35 billion US gallons (130,000,000 m3) of biofuels by 2017, ethanol production will grow to 7 billion US gallons (26,000,000 m3) by 2010, up from 4.5 billion in 2006, boosting ethanol's share of maize demand in the U.S. from 22.6 percent to 36.1 percent.

Corn is widely used in Germany as a feedstock for biogas plants. Here the maize is harvested, shredded then placed in silage clamps from which it is fed into the biogas plants. This process makes use of the whole plant rather than simply using the kernels as in the production of fuel ethanol.

In developing countries on the other hand "feed maize" is being used increasingly for heating on specially designed stoves similar to firewood stoves. Corn cobs are also used as a biomass fuel source.
8. These are the top corn producers 
Top ten maize producers in 2012[55]
Production (tonnes)
No symbol = official figure, A = Aggregate (may include official, semiofficial or estimates).
Our local production is very low, lower than the world's average, in fact in most corn producing areas using conventional method, yield per hectare is barely 1 MT.

9. How nutritious is green corn or corn on the cob? Or steamed or boiled corn? Here's the nutritional value of steamed corn, sold on the road side in India, similar to that we buy along Katipunan road near Ateneo.  Wikipedia
Sweetcorn, yellow, raw
(seeds only)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
360 kJ (86 kcal)
18.7 g
5.7 g
6.26 g
2 g
1.35 g
3.27 g
0.023 g
0.129 g
0.129 g
0.348 g
0.137 g
0.067 g
0.026 g
0.150 g
0.123 g
0.185 g
0.131 g
0.089 g
0.295 g
0.244 g
0.636 g
0.127 g
0.292 g
0.153 g
75.96 g
Vitamin A equiv.
9 μg (1%)
lutein and zeaxanthin
644 μg
0.155 mg (13%)
0.055 mg (5%)
1.77 mg (12%)
0.717 mg (14%)
0.093 mg (7%)
Folate (vit. B9)
42 μg (11%)
6.8 mg (8%)
0.52 mg (4%)
37 mg (10%)
0.163 mg (8%)
89 mg (13%)
270 mg (6%)
0.46 mg (5%)
Link to USDA Database entry
One ear of medium size (6-3/4" to 7-1/2" long)
maize has 90 grams of seeds
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
It is no wonder corn eaters are hard workers and are known for their physical endurance. Many athletes, particularly boxers come from the South where corn is the staple food.

10.There are many other uses of corn such as

·      .o  Corn as alternative medicine is an age long practice.  Water from boiled corn is taken with or without sugar has diuretic properties. It is recommended in folk medicine for kidney problems.  

·         Starch from maize can also be made into plastics, fabrics, adhesives, and many other chemical products.

·         The corn steep liquor, a plentiful watery byproduct of maize wet milling process, is widely used in the biochemical industry and research as a culture medium to grow many kinds of microorganisms.

·         Chrysanthemin is found in purple corn and is used as a food coloring.

·         Corn as green fodder is popular on the farm for working animals, particularly carabao and bullock.  To improve digestibility and palatability corn fodder is first made into silage, rather than fed in dried form. We do not practice silage in the Philippines, unlike other countries where fodder is not available throughout the year.

·         Maize kernels can be used in place of sand in a sandbox  enclosure for children's play.
 Corn cob powder is a substitute of talc in the manufacture of talcum powder for the face, body, and babies. Corn cob powder is safer because it is organic, unlike talc which is a mineral.  Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral made up mainly of Magnesium and Silicon, and in its natural state may contain asbestos which causes cancer of the lungs - and ovarian cancer in the case of talcum dependent women.  

The author was visiting scientist at CIMMYT Mexico in 1986. Acknowledgement: Wikipedia for Table data and Corn illustrated on morphology.   

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