Maize (Zea mays)



Maize (Zea mays) is also known as corn in many English-speaking countries. Maize is a grass domesticated by indigenous people in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. It is a widely grown crop in the Americas, with transgenic maize comprised 80% of the maize planted in the United States. The term corn is often used in culinary contexts, particularly in naming products such as popcorn and cornflakes, while maize is used in agricultural and scientific references.

Most commercially grown maize has been bred for a standard height of 2.5 m, but some varieties can grow up to 7 meters tall. Sweet corn is usually shorter than field-corn varieties. The term Indian corn is referred specifically to multi-colored field-corn (flint corn) cultivars. Indian corn's kernel has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm, it is likened to being hard as flint, hence the name.

The maize plant, 2-3 m tall, has erect stem which resemble bamboo cane, and the internodes that can reach 20-30 cm. The lower leaves are 0.5-1 m long and 5-10 cm wide. The stems are with many nodes, casting off flag-leaves at every node. Under the leaves and close to the stem grow the ears, with the ears grow about 3mm a day.

The ears are female inflourecences, tightly wrapped by several layers of leaves. The ears are so closed-in to the stems that they do not show easily until the emergence of the pale yellow silks from the leaf whorl at the end of the ears. The silks are elongated stigmas that look like tuffs of hair, initially green, and later red or yellow. Certain varieties of maize have been bred to produce many additional developed ears, which are the source of the 'baby corn', and are used as a vegetable in Asian cuisine.

The apex of the stem ends in the tassel, an inflorescence of male flowers. When the tassle is mature and conditions are warm and dry, anthers on the tassle dehisce and release pollen, which are anemophilous (dispersed by wind). Most pollen falls within a few meters of the tassle. Each pollinated silk will form one kernel of maize. Young ears can be consumed raw, with the cob and silk. As the plants matures, the cob becomes tougher and the silk dries to inedibility. By the end of growing season, the kernels dry out and become difficult to chew. An ear of corn is 10-25 cm in length, and contains about 200-400 kernels. The kernels can come in various colors, from blackish, bluish-gray, purple, green, red, yellow, to white.

When ground into flour, maize yields more flour, but less bran than wheat does. Corn flour lacks the protein gluten of wheat, and therefore, makes baked goods with poor rising capability and coherence. Maize contain lipid transfer protein, an indigestible protein that survives cooking. This protein has been linked to a rare and understudied allergy to maize in humans.

Maize and cornmeal (ground dried maize) constitutes a staple food in many regions of the world. Maize meal is made into a thick porridge in many cultures, and is a replacement for wheat flour, to make cornbread and other baked products. Masa (cornmeal treated with lime water) is the main ingredient for tortillas, atole, and many other Mexican food.

Popcorn is kernels of certain varieties that explode when heated, forming fluffy pieces that are eaten as a snack. Maize can be harvested and consumed in the unripe stage, when the kernel is fully grown but still soft. Unripe maize is usually cooked to become palatable, by steaming, boiling,and roasting the whole ears and eating the kernels right off the cob. Corn on the cob is a common dish in the United States, Canada, United kingdom, and South America.

Starch from maize can be made into plastics, fabrics, adhesives, and other chemical products. Stigmas from female maize flowers called corn silk, are sold as herbal supplements.

There are a few maize pests and diseases which can incurred large crop losses. Pests are Corn earworm, Fall armyworm, Stalk Borer, European corn borer, Western corn rootworm, and Southwestern corn borer. Maize diseases are Corn smut, Maize dwarf mosaic virus, Stewart's Wilt and Grey Leaf Spot.

Maize plantMaize plant
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maispflanze.jpg
authorshipburgkirsch
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Maize (Corn)Maize (Corn)
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VegCorn.jpg
authorshipYelm
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Dried maizeDried maize
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toellerberg_Maiskolben_01.jpg
authorshipJohann Jaritz
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Variegated maize earsVariegated maize ears
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Corncobs_edit1.jpg
authorshipWaugsberg
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Ornamental maizeOrnamental maize
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aardbeien_mais.jpg
authorshipRasbak
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Corn kernelsCorn kernels
photo sourcehttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ab_food_06.jpg
authorshipAndrew Butko
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