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From being first domesticated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico some 10 millennia ago, corn has emerged to become one of the most important crops in history. Today, it is the most-produced grain in the whole world, with global corn production reaching as much as 1.044 billion metric tons during the 2017-2018 growing season according to data from the National Corn Growers Association and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. This translates to 41.12 billion bushels of corn produced globally.
Among the top corn-producing countries in the world, the United States is the largest, producing 14.6 billion bushels of corn in 2017-2018 or more than 35.5% of the world’s total.
This amounts to 371 million metric tons of corn, 90.2 million acres planted, 82.7 million acres harvested, and $47.5 billion in corn crop value.
The enormous commercial value of corn behooves farmers to put into practice measures that will ensure abundant and high-quality yields.
Many factors affect the success of corn farming, and these include climate and weather conditions, proper hybrid selection, good crop rotation practices, appropriate use of nitrogen fertilizer, proper plant population or density, and ample tillage.
Farmers can use modern technological tools such as aerial spectral imaging for corn production, which will allow them to pinpoint specific problems to zero in on.
Not only can spectral imagery discover irrigation, nutrient supply, and soil quality issues, it can also detect pest and disease outbreaks, allowing farmers to deal with the problem in its earliest stages.
For instance, spectral imagery taken from a plane can discover corn grey leaf spot disease, which is caused by fungi of the genus Cercospora.
Priority fungicide application can then be performed as soon as the disease emerges, protecting the farmers’ investment, as well as their future earnings.
To give you a better idea of the commercial importance of corn, here is a short list of some of the major products and commodities that are derived from this ubiquitous “yellow gold.”
Corn is found in a wide spectrum of food products and in different forms, thanks in no small measure to its versatility.
Corn is consumed as a whole food, but it is also processed into cereals, corn starch, high-fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, alcoholic beverages, and many more.
What’s probably even more amazing is that corn is found in as many as 3 out of 4 products in the supermarket, many of which are food products.
It is used as ingredient in baking products, baby food, dog food, brewed beverages, carbonated beverages, condiments, soups and sauces, nut butters, fruit jams, cheese products, cooking oil, and virtually all kinds of desserts.
Feed and Fodder for Animal Husbandry
In the United States, a majority of the corn produced is actually channeled to the livestock industry, for which the crops are used as animal feeds.
As much as 5.37 billion bushels of corn or 37.6% of all corn produced in the country during the 2017-2018 season went to feeding animals in the poultry, beef, pork, and dairy industries.
Non-Food Industrial Products
Starch and other corn by-products are also used in a variety of industrial products, including drugs and medicaments, cosmetics, perfumes, toothpastes, lubricants, bath soaps, laundry detergents, talcum powder, linoleum and drywall products, paints and dyes, and many other products.
Another major consumer of corn in the United States is the bio-fuel industry, which used some 4.28 billion bushels or 30.1% of the corn produced in the country during the 2017-2018 season.
Ethanol is ethyl alcohol, which is the same kind of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks made for human consumption.
Since it releases less greenhouse gases than traditional gasoline, it is considered more environment friendly than this widely used fossil fuel.
When you choose to grow corn, you become part of an agricultural tradition that goes back to more than 10,000 years ago. Provided that you follow best practices in farming and use appropriate technologies to ensure high-quality yield, you’re sure to find corn production to be a very lucrative and rewarding endeavor, indeed.