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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


From Teosinte to Quad Stacks: See the History of Corn at Farm Science Review 2011

October 19, 2011

LONDON, Ohio – Farmers across the Corn Belt produce millions of bushels of the crop from which the region derives its name, thanks in no small part to centuries of evolution in plant breeding, farming practices, and biotechnology. The history of corn, from ancient grasses to modern marvel, will be on display at Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review, Sept. 20-22 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center outside London.

“We’re trying to tell the story of technology in corn,” said Harold Watters, Ohio State University Extension educator and coordinator of Extension’s Agronomic Crops Team. “From teosinte on through to the most modern quad stack, we’ll talk about plant breeding and technology development, and corn is a wonderful example of a modern plant that we’ve developed from a simple grass into a major crop.”

The “antique corn display,” as Watters called it, is a key feature of the Agronomic Crops Team’s demonstration plots, located near the main entrance on the east end of the Review’s exhibit area.

In addition to displaying several varieties developed over the past two centuries, he said OSU Extension experts will also discuss the development of modern farming practices perhaps equally responsible for rapid acceleration of agronomic productivity.

“We talk about how farming practices have developed,” Watters explained. “I’ve got some demonstrations where I put in different populations some varieties from a hundred years ago, right next to some of the modern varieties to see the differences.”

He said the varieties exhibit obvious and significant differences in traits like standability, stalk quality, root strength, as well as ear size and kernel count.

“It’s not just biotechnology, but plant breeding improvements as well,” Watters said.

He said the demonstration isn’t just about the differences in the plant itself, but also about differences in how the plant and kernel are processed and used in the modern production chain.

“It’s pretty striking: we have pod corn, gourd corn, flint corn and others,” Watters said. “Modern processing practices play a big role in helping us get higher starch content and energy. We no longer have to grow a single variety for a single application because of the processing we have today. That’s where the Cargills and Andersons out there have come right along the breeders and geneticists.”

The Agronomic Crops Team demonstration plots also feature issues and management practices in both soybean and corn production, as well as insect management, cover crops and bioenergy crops.

Farm Science Review is sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. It attracts upwards of 140,000 visitors from all over the country and Canada, who come for three days to peruse 4,000 product lines from 600 commercial exhibitors, and learn the latest in agricultural research, conservation, family and nutrition, and gardening and landscape.

Farm Science Review pre-show tickets are now on sale for $5 at all OSU Extension county offices. Tickets will also be available at local agribusinesses. Tickets are $8 at the gate. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 20-21 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 22.

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Andy Vance
Harold Watters