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Maize (Zea mays L. ssp. mays, pronounced /meiz/; also known in some countries as corn), is a cereal grain domesticated in Mesoamerica and subsequently spread throughout the American continents. After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, maize spread to the rest of the world.
                         Scientific classification                          

Kingdom:                                                             Plantae
(unranked):                                              Angiosperms
(unranked):                                                     Monocots
Order:                                                                    Poales
Family:                                                               Poaceae
Genus:                                                                         Zea

                                         Species:
Zea diploperennis
Zea luxurians
Zea mays ssp. huehuetenangensis
Zea mays ssp. mays
Zea mays ssp. mexicana
Zea mays ssp. parviglumis
Zea nicaraguensis
Zea perennis

                     Binomial name   Zea mays L.                     
Maize is the most widely grown crop in the Americas (332 million metric tons annually in the United States alone). Hybrid maize, due to its high grain yield as a result of heterosis ("hybrid vigor"), is preferred by farmers over conventional varieties. While some maize varieties grow up to 7 metres (23 ft) tall,[1] most commercially grown maize has been bred for a standardized height of 2.5 metres (8 ft). Sweet corn is usually shorter than field-corn varieties.

Naming conventions
The term maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taino word for the plant, maiz. This was the form most commonly heard in the United Kingdom. [2]
In the United States and Canada the usual term is "corn".

This was originally the English term for any grain, but now usually refers to maize, having been shortened from the term "Indian corn." Indian corn is currently often used in the US and Canada to refer specifically to multicolored "field corn" cultivars. [3]
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Maize
Physiology

Maize stems superficially resemble bamboo canes and the internodes can reach 20–30 centimetres (8–12 in). Maize has a very distinct growth form; the lower leaves being like broad flags, 50–100 centimetres long and 5–10 centimetres wide (2–4 ft by 2–4 in); the stems are erect, conventionally 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) in height, with many nodes, casting off flag-leaves at every node. Under these leaves and close to the stem grow the ears. They grow about 3 milimetres a day.

The ears are female inflorescences, tightly covered over by several layers of leaves, and so closed-in by them to the stem that they do not show themselves easily until the emergence of the pale yellow silks from the leaf whorl at the end of the ear. The silks are elongated stigmas that look like tufts of hair, at first green, and later red or yellow. Plantings for silage are even denser, and achieve an even lower percentage of ears and more plant matter. Certain varieties of maize have been bred to produce many additional developed ears, and these are the source of the "baby corn" that is used as a vegetable in Asian cuisine.

Maize is a facultative long-night plant and flowers in a certain number of growing degree days > 50 °F (10 °C) in the environment to which it is adapted.[5] The magnitude of the influence that long nights have on the number of days that must pass before maize flowers is genetically prescribed and regulated by the phytochrome system.[6] Photoperiodicity can be eccentric in tropical cultivars, while the long days characteristic of higher latitudes allow the plants to grow so tall that they do not have enough time to produce seed before being killed by frost. These attributes, however, may prove useful in using tropical maize for biofuels.[7]

The apex of the stem ends in the tassel, an inflorescence of male flowers. When the tassel is mature and conditions are suitably warm and dry, anthers on the tassel dehisce and release pollen. Maize pollen is anemophilous (dispersed by wind) and because of its large settling velocity most pollen falls within a few meters of the tassel. Each silk may become pollinated to produce one kernel of maize. Young ears can be consumed raw, with the cob and silk, but as the plant matures (usually during the summer months) the cob becomes tougher and the silk dries to inedibility. By the end of the growing season, the kernels dry out and become difficult to chew without cooking them tender first in boiling water. Modern farming techniques in developed countries usually rely on dense planting, which produces one large ear per stalk.

Seeds

The kernel of maize has a pericarp of the fruit fused with the seed coat, typical of the grasses. It is close to a multiple fruit in structure, except that the individual fruits (the kernels) never fuse into a single mass. The grains are about the size of peas, and adhere in regular rows round a white pithy substance, which forms the ear. An ear contains from 200 to 400 kernels, and is from 10–25 centimetres (4–10 inches) in length. They are of various colors: blackish, bluish-gray, purple, green, red, white and yellow. When ground into flour, maize yields more flour, with much less bran, than wheat does. However, it lacks the protein gluten of wheat and, therefore, makes baked goods with poor rising capability and coherence.

A genetic variation that accumulates more sugar and less starch in the ear is consumed as a vegetable and is called sweet corn.

Immature maize shoots accumulate a powerful antibiotic substance, DIMBOA (2,4-dihydroxy-7-methoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one). DIMBOA is a member of a group of hydroxamic acids (also known as benzoxazinoids) that serve as a natural defense against a wide range of pests including insects, pathogenic fungi and bacteria. DIMBOA is also found in related grasses, particularly wheat. A maize mutant (bx) lacking DIMBOA is highly susceptible to be attacked by aphids and fungi. DIMBOA is also responsible for the relative resistance of immature maize to the European corn borer (family Crambidae). As maize matures, DIMBOA levels and resistance to the corn borer decline.

Due to its shallow roots of only one to two inches deep, maize is susceptible to droughts, intolerant of nutrient-deficient soils, and prone to be uprooted by severe winds.[8]

Origin

There are several theories about the specific origin of maize in Mesoamerica:[12]

1. It may be a direct domestication of a Mexican annual teosinte, Zea mays ssp. parviglumis, native to the Balsas River valley of southern Mexico, with up to 12% of its genetic material obtained from Zea mays ssp. mexicana through introgression.
2. It may have been derived from hybridization between a small domesticated maize (a slightly changed form of a wild maize) and a teosinte of section Luxuriantes, either Z. luxurians or Z. diploperennis.
3. It may have undergone two or more domestications either of a wild maize or of a teosinte.
4. It may have evolved from a hybridization of Z. diploperennis by Tripsacum dactyloides. (The term "teosinte" describes all species and subspecies in the genus Zea, excluding Zea mays ssp. mays.) In the late 1930s, Paul Mangelsdorf suggested that domesticated maize was the result of a hybridization event between an unknown wild maize and a species of Tripsacum, a related genus. However, the proposed role of tripsacum (gama grass) in the origins of maize has been refuted by modern genetic testing, refuting Mangelsdorf’s model and the fourth listed above.

The first model was proposed by Nobel Prize winner George Beadle in 1939. Though it has experimental support, it has not explained a number of problems, among them:
1. how the immense diversity of the species of sect. Zea originated,
2. how the tiny archaeological specimens of 3500–2700 BC could have been selected from a teosinte, and
3. how domestication could have proceeded without leaving remains of teosinte or maize with teosintoid traits until ca. 1100 BC.

The domestication of maize is of particular interest to researchers — archaeologists, geneticists, ethnobotanists, geographers, etc. The process is thought by some to have started 7,500 to 12,000 years ago. Recent[when?] genetic evidence suggests that maize domestication occurred 9,000 years ago in central Mexico, perhaps in the highlands between Oaxaca and Jalisco. More recent[when?] evidence now points to the lowlands of the Balsas River valley. [13] The crop wild relative teosinte most similar to modern maize grows in the area of the Balsas River. Archaeological remains of early maize ears, found at Guila Naquitz Cave in the Oaxaca Valley, date back roughly 6,250 years; the oldest ears from caves near Tehuacan, Puebla, date ca. 2750 BC. Little change occurred in ear form until ca. 1100 BC when great changes appeared in ears from Mexican caves: maize diversity rapidly increased and archaeological teosinte was first deposited.

Perhaps as early as 1500 BC, maize began to spread widely and rapidly. As it was introduced to new cultures, new uses were developed and new varieties selected to better serve in those preparations. Maize was the staple food, or a major staple, of most pre-Columbian North American, Mesoamerican, South American, and Caribbean cultures. The Mesoamerican civilization was strengthened upon the field crop of maize; through harvesting it, its religious and spiritual importance and how it impacted their diet. Maize formed the Mesoamerican people’s identity. During the 1st millennium AD, maize cultivation spread from Mexico into the U.S. Southwest and a millennium later into U.S. Northeast and southeastern Canada, transforming the landscape as Native Americans cleared large forest and grassland areas for the new crop.

It is unknown what precipitated its domestication, because the edible portion of the wild variety is too small and hard to obtain to be eaten directly, as each kernel is enclosed in a very hard bi-valve shell. However, George Beadle demonstrated that the kernels of teosinte are readily "popped" for human consumption, like modern popcorn. Some have argued that it would have taken too many generations of selective breeding in order to produce large compressed ears for efficient cultivation. However, studies of the hybrids readily made by intercrossing teosinte and modern maize suggest that this objection is not well founded.

In 2005, research by the USDA Forest Service indicated that the rise in maize cultivation 500 to 1,000 years ago in what is now the southeastern United States contributed to the decline of freshwater mussels, which are very sensitive to environmental changes.[14]

You can learn everything about the Maize from the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In scientific and formal usage, "maize" is normally used in a global context. Equally, in bulk trading contexts, "corn" is used most. In the UK, Australia and other English-speaking countries, "corn" is often used in culinary contexts, particularly in naming products such as popcorn and corn flakes, but "maize" is used in agriculture and science. [4]
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