Corn Facts
Corn Facts

59 Interesting Corn Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published March 3, 2021
  • Around one-third of the corn grown in the United States is eaten by livestock; another third is used in the production of ethanol fuel, and the rest is either consumed by humans, exported to other nations, or used industrially.[2]
  • Henry Ford's Model T was designed to run on either gasoline or corn ethanol.[11]
  • In 2019, US farmers planted 91.7 million acres of corn—the equivalent of 69 million football fields.[2]
  • Corn is often used in the production of bio-degradable packing materials.[2]
  • One variety of corn grown in Peru has kernels so large that they are eaten individually.[19]
  • Corn ethanol is made through a chemical process that converts cornstarch into sugar, which is then fermented into alcohol.[11]
  • Pharmaceutical companies sometimes use corn in the creation of antibiotic medications, which require a biological medium to grow in.[2]
  • The four nations that purchase the most corn from the United States are Mexico and Colombia, who use it as a food ingredient, and Japan and South Korea, who buy it mainly for animal feed.[2]
  • Of all major crops grown in the United States, corn utilizes the most acreage.[2]
  • Red corn
    Red corn was once prized by bootleggers for the high-quality moonshine it made
  • Corn kernels can come in different shades and combinations of white, yellow, red, blue, and purple/black.[19]
  • Although some proponents of replacing gasoline with corn ethanol argue that this will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, opponents have noted that the conversion of forest and grassland to cropland for corn would actually cause an increase in such emissions.[11]
  • Due to the unusual adaptability of corn seeds, every state in the United States has land capable of growing some type of corn, despite differences in soil and climate.[2]
  • The word “maize” most likely comes from a Latin American aboriginal tribe’s name for corn. The original word, mays, also meant “life-giver.”[19]
  • Corn’s scientific name is Zea mays.[19]
  • Over 440 million tons of corn are harvested throughout the world each year, grown on almost 250,000 acres.[19]
  • Corn is the third most cultivated crop. Wheat and rice are the first two.[19]
  • Corn stalks can grow as tall as thirteen feet high.[19]
  • There are six main types of corn: flour corn, waxy maize, sweet corn, popcorn, dent, and flint.[19]
  • Almost all gasoline sold today contains small amounts of ethanol, which in the United States is made almost exclusively from corn.[11]
  • Corn Ethanol

  • Farmers in Mexico grow at least 25 different “races” of corn, all of them varieties that were being grown by native Mexicans centuries ago.[19]
  • Due to the large surface area of leaves on a corn stalk, corn is more effective at photosynthesis than many other plants.[19]
  • The average number of kernels on an ear of corn is around 500.[19]
  • Chicha, an alcoholic drink used in many pre-Columbian Latin American religious ceremonies, was made from fermented corn.[19]
  • There are 18 nations in the world whose inhabitants consume corn as their primary food source—twelve in Latin America and six in Africa.[19]
  • Corn is native to the American continents and was unknown to the rest of humanity until Columbus arrived in the New World.[19]
  • Although corn originated in the Americas, many cultures have names for corn that reference other nations: in some African languages, the word for corn means “Egyptian grain”; in Egypt, corn is called “Syrian” or "Turkish grain”; in France, it is “Indian wheat”; and in India, corn is referred to as “wheat from Mecca.”[19]
  • Archaeologists working in Mexico have found the remains of corn ears that are thousands of years old.[19]
  • An Aztec creation myth describes four failed attempts to create humans that were evolved enough to survive. It was only on the fifth attempt, when humans began to eat corn, that they were able to continue as a species.[19]
  • In a Mayan creation myth, humans were made by mixing the blood of the gods with dough made from corn.[19]
  • Mayan legend credits the god Quetzalcóatl with giving humans the knowledge of corn cultivation.[19]
  • It took less than 100 years after Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in the 15th century for corn to be introduced to farmers in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Pacific Islands.[19]
  • When corn was first introduced to the Chinese, they referred to it as “the wheat of the western barbarians.”[19]
  • Ships carrying captive Africans to the Americas were usually stocked with over thirteen tons of corn, the primary food source for enslaved persons during the voyage.[19]
  • Pellagra, a disease linked to the overconsumption of corn, afflicted peasant communities across Europe from the 17th to the 20th centuries.[19]
  • In their records, Colonial New Englanders gave credit to three Native Americans for teaching them how to grow and use corn. Of these, two—Kemps and Kinsock, from the Powhatan tribe—were essentially forced to do so by the settlers. The third, Squanto, is probably the most famous.[19]
  • Corn Bourbon
    Many spirits are made from corn mash
  • Bourbon, whiskey made from corn, was named for a county in Kentucky.[19]
  • The record-holding Cool Patch Pumpkins 2014 corn maze in Dixon, California, was so large and so difficult to solve that local emergency dispatchers were flooded with 911 calls from visitors asking for help to get out.[9]
  • Although many people theorize that there is a connection between the use of high fructose corn syrup in flavored beverages, such as soda, and the high rates of obesity in America, there is currently no evidence suggesting that corn syrup is more harmful than other kinds of sweeteners, including table sugar.[20]
  • Average US consumption of high fructose corn syrup has steadily decreased from 62.5 pounds per person in 2000 to 37.6 pounds in 2018.[17]
  • In the United States, corn is used in the production of so many foods that the number of products without at least a trace amount of corn is smaller than the number of those that contain corn.[8]
  • Because it is both very adaptable and easy to manipulate, corn has been referred to as a "genetic monster."[8]
  • Sweet corn, the variety that most Americans grill, boil, or eat from a can, only accounts for 1% of all corn grown in the United States.[8]
  • In 2019, 92% of all corn grown in the United States came from genetically modified seeds.[12]
  • In the United States, most corn syrup, cornstarch, and corn oil is made using GMO (genetically modified) corn.[12]
  • An old adage among corn farmers was "knee high by the Fourth of July," meaning that if one's corn stalks were at least as high as an adult's knees by Independence Day, they could expect a good harvest.[18]
  • Corn Farming
    Genetic modification has sped up corn's growth cycle

  • Within the past several decades, advancements in corn agriculture have resulted in much taller stalks of corn. Where an average stalk used to grow 2 to 3 feet tall by midsummer, now most corn reaches eight feet in the same amount of time.[18]
  • Corn Smut—abnormal fungal growths that afflict corn, growing increasingly black until they burst to release a cloud of infectious spores—is actually used as a gourmet ingredient by many professional chefs.[16]
  • Instead of a scarecrow, farmers trying to keep raccoons out of their corn crops often place a portable radio in their field and let it play all night.[16]
  • Every year, US farmers use over 200 million pounds of weed killer containing glyphosate, an herbicide that has been used by corn growers for more than four decades but has been recently linked to cancer.[6]
  • Agricultural irrigation accounts for around 80% of total water consumption in the United States, and corn takes up 25% of all land being irrigated, more than any other crop.[5]
  • Grain supplier Randy Constant committed suicide in 2019, after the USDA discovered that he had fraudulently made over $140 million by selling cheaper, non-organic corn and soybeans under a label that claimed the grains were organic, and therefore more expensive.[14]
  • Some North American myths attribute the origin of corn to the Corn Mother, who feeds a starving tribe with corn—until they discover that she is producing the kernels by rubbing her own body, at which point the people execute her as a witch. As she died, the Corn Mother gave the tribe instructions for using her corpse to cultivate the first corn crops.[3]
  • The majority of crop circles created in corn fields are found in England. Two British men, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, started the trend by making more than 200 crop circles in the late 20th century.[13]
  • Corn Growing Facts
    Corn is massive business
  • The US government paid American corn producers over $2.3 billion in subsidies in 2016.[7]
  • The Pilgrims who prepared the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621 most likely served a corn dish that involved boiled cornmeal sweetened with molasses, rather than the roasted or boiled corn that is served today.[10]
  • Both grits and polenta are made from ground corn. Polenta is an Italian dish made from coarsely ground yellow corn, and it resembles risotto or corncakes when finished. Grits originated in the American South, and the finished product is more like loose porridge.[4]
  • One of Harvard's first student clubs was the Hasty Pudding Club, founded in 1795 and named for a traditional English dish that, in America, is usually made from cornmeal.[1]
  • Historians are unsure about the origin of the name of "johnnycakes," a cornmeal flatbread popular among colonial New Englanders and still eaten in America today.[15]
  • Although it originated in the Americas, some 19th-century scholars claimed corn as an Old World crop. Some went so far as to falsify documents that purported to be pre-Columbian references to corn by Europeans.[19]
  • Interesting Corn INFOGRAPHIC
    Corn Infographic Thumbnail

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