General description and special characteristics – Maize is described as the most domesticated of all field crops. Originating in the vicinity of Mexico and Central America, it is considered to have descended from the wild teosinte plant and has been cultivated since the period between 3400 and 2300 BC. It is the third most cultivated cereal crop, following wheat and rice. Maize is a coarse annual grass with a stalk ranging from 0.3-7.6 m (2-25 ft) in height and has internodes. Tillers may be produced, particularly in non-hybridized varieties. Lodging is possible, but less likely in commercial corn hybrids. In addition to the underground seminal root system, maize also produces aboveground crown and brace/aerial roots help that help to keep stalks from falling over. Staminate flowers (male) are borne in the tassel at the top of the stalk and pistillate (female) flowers comprise the ear on which the edible kernels form. Key groups of maize include:
- Dent: With “dented” seed, this type comprises the high starch field corn varieties that are widely grown for animal feed and processed foods
- Flint: Having a hard “flinty” seed coat, flint corn is often multi-colored, hardy, and grown for both human and livestock consumption
- Popcorn: Two types: 1) rice, with pointed kernels; and 2) pearl, with rounded kernels
- Sweet corn: Sweeter than other types because the endosperm (before becoming ripe and dry), contains sugar as well as starch
- Naga Multi-colored: A flint field corn from northeast India. Mid-sized ears with multi-colored kernels. Grows vigorously under suitable conditions. Can be consumed by humans and animals.
- Naga Popcorn: Popcorn from northeast India. Hardy crop. Small ears with round, yellow, hard kernels. Can be fed to animals.
- Hawaiian Supersweet #9 Yellow: Yellow, sweet, and crispy when picked at the right stage of growth. Has large ears; kernels are very tender. Grows well in tropical conditions. An improved open-pollinated variety.