Figure 6.2.5.: Cornfield in Pennsylvania. Credit: Heather Karsten
Corn or maize is a summer annual C4 crop in the Poaceae, or grass family that has high nutrient demands. Unless soil conservation practices are used, corn fields do not have live roots protecting the soil from erosion and providing other soil quality benefits after harvest in the fall, winter and spring. The US is the largest corn producer in the world. Soils and climate, particularly in the Midwest, permit high corn yields; and significant investment in agricultural research has produced high-yielding corn hybrids and production technologies, such as fertilizers, pest control practices, farming equipment, and irrigation. Research has also developed diverse uses for the large quantities of corn produced in the US, and the US is also a major exporter of corn.
Read this overview of US corn production and uses from the US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Corn and Other Feed Grains.
Knowledge Check (flashcards)
After reading Corn and Other Feed Grains, consider how you would answer the questions on the cards below. Click "Turn" to see the correct answer on the reverse side of each card.
Front: What are two top uses of corn in the US?
Back: livestock feed and for ethanol production for energy
Front: Discuss at least three specific factors that explain why the amount of corn produced in the US has increased over the past 30 years?
Back: Demand for ethanol has increased the price of corn. Yields have increased with improved production technologies (seeds, pest management, tillage practices etc.). The export market continues to grow. Growing US population from Latin America has increased demand for corn for food.