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Corn -- An A-Maizing Plant
Grade Level: 4-6
Approximate Length of Activity: Two to three class periods
Michigan Content Standards: (Social Studies) II.2.2; II.2.3; IV.2.3
The Corn Belt is a group of states where most of the corn in the United States is produced. Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota produce 50 percent of all the corn grown in the U.S. Other major corn growing states include Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio. These 12 states make up the Corn Belt.
Corn is the major feed grain grown by farmers in the United States, leading all other crops in value and volume of production. Corn is a major component in foods like cereals, peanut butter, and snack foods.
An ear of corn has an average of 16 rows with 800 kernels. A pound of corn consists of approximately 1,300 kernels. An acre (about the size of a football field) of corn, yielding 100 bushels, produces approximately 7,280,000 kernels. Most of the weight of a bushel of corn is the starch, oil, protein, and fiber, with some natural moisture.
Farmers grow corn on every continent of the world except Antarctica. Hybrid varieties of corn have been developed to adapt to specific growing conditions and locations worldwide. Hybrids are the offspring produced by breeding plants of different varieties.
One hundred years ago, starch was basically the only product resulting from corn refining and the rest of the kernel was thrown away. Today, there are uses for every part of the kernel – even the water in which it is processed.
The corn seed (kernel) is composed of four main parts: the endosperm, the pericarp, the germ, and the tip cap. The endosperm is most of the dry weight of the kernel. It is also the source of energy for the seed. The pericarp is the hard, outer coat that protects the kernel both before and after planting. The germ is the living part of the corn kernel. The germ contains genetic information, vitamins, and minerals that the kernel needs to grow. The tip cap is where the kernel was attached to the cob.
Corn can be made into fuel, abrasives, solvents, charcoal, animal feed, bedding for animals, insulation, adhesives, and more. The kernel is used as oil, bran, starch, glutamates, animal feed, and solvents. The silk is combined with other parts of the corn plant to be used as part of animal feed, silage, and fuels. Husks are made into dolls and used as filling materials. The stalk is used to make paper, wallboard, silage, syrup, and rayon (artificial silk).
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