Maize is one of the most versatile emerging crops having wider adaptability under varied agro-climatic conditions. Globally, maize is known as the queen of cereals because it has the highest genetic yield potential among the cereals.
Corn was first domesticated by native peoples in Mexico about 10,000 years ago. Native Americans taught European colonists to grow the indigenous grains, and, since its introduction into Europe by Christopher Columbus and other explorers, corn has spread to all areas of the world suitable to its cultivation.
Maize around the world:
The United States of America (USA) is the largest producer of maize. It contributes nearly 36% of the total production in the world.
Maize in India:
Export destinations of India:
Nepal, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines.
- Soil requirement:
– Maize can be grown successfully in a variety of soils ranging from loamy sand to clay loam. However, soils with good organic matter content having high water holding capacity with neutral pH are considered good for higher productivity.
– It is a sensitive crop to moisture stress particularly excess soil moisture and salinity stresses. Therefore, the fields having a provision of proper drainage should be selected for the cultivation of maize.
- Time of sowing:
Maize can be grown in all seasons viz; Kharif (monsoon), post-monsoon, Rabi (winter) and spring. However, it is predominantly a Kharif crop with 85 per cent of the area under cultivation in the season.
- Water Management:
– The crop requires 25-45 inches of rainfall (far less than rice; 80-120)
– The irrigation water management depends on the season as about 80 % of maize is cultivated during monsoon season, particularly under rainfed conditions. However, in areas with assured irrigation facilities are available, depending upon the rains and moisture-holding capacity of the soil, irrigation should be applied as and when required by the crop.
- Crop Protection:
– Major pests: Stem borer, pink borer, shoot fly
– Management: intercropping of maize with suitable varieties of cowpea (lobiya), early sowing
Uses of Maize:
Although it is a major food in many parts of the world, corn is inferior to other cereals in nutritional value. It is used for popcorn, confections, and various manufactured cereal preparations. Its protein is of poor quality, and it is deficient in niacin (Vitamin B3). Diets in which it predominates often
result in pellagra (niacin-deficiency disease). Its gluten (elastic protein) is of comparatively poor quality, and it is not used to produce leavened bread.
Corn is also used to produce ethanol (ethyl alcohol), a first-generation liquid biofuel. In the United States, corn ethanol is typically blended with gasoline to produce “gasohol,” an automotive fuel that is 10 per cent ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol, which is made from non-edible plant parts such as agricultural waste, has a smaller impact on the food chain than corn ethanol, though the conversion technology is generally less efficient than that of first-generation biofuels.
– Cornstarch can be broken down into corn syrup, a common sweetener that is generally less expensive than sucrose; high-fructose corn syrup is used extensively in processed foods such as soft drinks and candies.
– Stalks are made into paper and wallboard; husks are used as filling material; cobs are used directly for fuel, to make charcoal, and in the preparation of industrial solvents.
– Corn grain is processed by wet milling, in which the grain is soaked in a dilute solution of sulfurous acid; by dry milling, in which the corn is exposed to a water spray or steam; and by fermentation, in which starches are changed to sugars and yeast is employed to convert the sugars into alcohol.
– Corn husks also have a long history of use in the folk arts for objects such as woven amulets and corn-husk dolls.
Maize and Climate Change:
- Punjab: The depleting groundwater levels due to an unsustainable irrigation system for rice cultivation has highlighted the need for crop diversification in the state. Maize is well suited for the agro-climatic conditions and also is a locally consumed crop (Makki di roti, sarso da saag)
- Under the changing climate scenario the limitations of rising temperature during grain filling of wheat particularly in eastern India, and declining yield of boro rice in West Bengal and Orissa, water scarcity areas in peninsular India (AP and Tamil Nadu) affecting the yield of Rabi rice, maize being a photo insensitive crop has better options for adaptation and mitigation of these climatic changes.
- Peninsular India is considered to be a neutral environment for maize wherein maize can be cultivated in either of the seasons. Therefore, it is emerging as a potential driving force for diversification i.e. diversification of rice-rice with rice-maize and other maize-based high value cropping systems in water scarcity/lowering of the water table is a major concern in a rice-growing belt of India and making rice cultivation non-remunerative. Hence, maize has emerged as potential as well as a profitable crop in these areas.