Thursday, August 21, 2008

America's largest crop: corn

Dead Corn
Originally uploaded by joblow
America’s largest crop is corn, says Wikipedia.

Corn is a readily available, reliable, storable and versatile commodity. In the average American supermarket, corn derived ingredients can be found in one-fourth of everything on the shelves.[2]

This includes not only food items, but also cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning products and household goods. Aside from that, corn is also used for the feeding of factory farm animals, for the production of alcohol, and can be used as a fuel source for both heat production and vehicles. On top of being a versatile commodity, corn has been genetically modified in a way that facilitates industrial-agricultural harvesting and large yields.

Between the years 1920 and 1980, US corn yields increased 333 percent and continue to improve.[3] The strains of corn used for industrial farming are engineered to grow in a uniform, perfectly upright fashion that facilitates mechanical harvesting. Corn is also modified to thrive in crowded conditions; one acre of land can accommodate around 30,000 plants and produce roughly 180 bushels of corn, with each bushel weighing in at 56 pounds.[4] Genetic modifications have made it possible for certain strains of corn to be naturally insect resistant.

Cheap and readily available chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers have contributed greatly to high crop yields; corn has also been engineered to tolerate chemicals and to efficiently utilize petrochemical fertilizers.[5] Increases in the productivity of corn have helped to keep food prices low. America’s number one crop has an undeniably important place in both the economy and in peoples' diets.

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