a sundrenched field
This leafy plant (Zea mays) constitutes one of the most important cereals in the world, is known as either maize or corn and is characterized by its stem in the form of a cane with a solid interior. It stands out fundamentally for its female inflorescence, the cob where the kernels are found, grouped along an axis. Covered by green colored and papery textured bracts, the cob ends in a dark yellow tuft. The corn plant is robust and noted for easy development and annual production.
This crop, together with rice and wheat, represents one of the main foods consumed worldwide. Its use is not only centered on human nutrition for its high content of vitamins A and B complex, important for the nervous system; in addition to soluble and insoluble fibers. It is also included in animal nutrition. The maize stems, once the cob has been separated, can be used as fodder. Flour is extracted from the maize grains for the preparation of corn bread, cakes, corn griddle cake and other baked goods. Also, cooking oil or for use by the paint and soap industries. Another important byproduct obtained from corn is sweeteners (corn syrup), which is used in the soft drinks industry, among others. It is also used in the production of ethanol and other fuels widely used as a gasoline substitute. It is also used in the plastic industry in place of petrolium.
There is evidence that corn was consumed in America more than 5,000 years ago. This food represented the staple of many ancient cultures, such as the Aztec, Incan and Mayan, who centered their diet on it. Cultivation of this cereal was already implemented in America when the European colonizers arrived. The Spanish brought it to Spain in the early 16th century, from where it spread to the rest of Europe. Nowadays, it is cultivated in all areas of the world. The United States is the largest producer of different types of corn, including the hybrid variety.
Corn requires an optimum temperature between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius and high incidence of sunlight. Its yield is lower in humid climates. For the seed to germinate, the temperature must range from 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. Water needs will vary throughout the cultivation process and when the plants begin to sprout, less water is required, although the humidity must be constant. Regarding soil, corn adapts very well to all types of soils, but those with a pH between 6 and 7 are most suitable. It also requires deep soils, rich in organic material, with good drainage circulation.
There are several types of corn, but they all come from the same wild species Zea diploperennis. Modern technology has allowed for the creation of numerous varieties, but the best known are: toothed, hard, soft or mealy sweet, pop and sheathed. Toothed corn is mostly cultivated in the United States. It is distinguished because when the top part of the kernel dries it acquires the form of a tooth. Regarding the hard type, its kernels are more consistent and the cobs are generally longer and thinner. The soft and mealy variety is also called mummy’s maize because it is the variety that is generally found in the graves of Aztecs and Incas. The pop variety has small and very hard kernels. The name comes from the fact that it pops when heated (pop corn). The pod maize is very curious because each kernel is wrapped in a small individual scale, in addition to that which covers the cob.
Corn planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Among the traditional varieties grown in this country are: the Long French and the Fine Husk; genetically modified varieties, such as the CESDA-88; the Loyola 86 and hybrids such as NO2 x T66. The main area of corn production is in Luperon, Puerto Plata, where 18,865 hectares are harvested. Other crop zones are located throughout the country. The planted area has diminished from 33,707 hectares in 2003 to only 23,897 hectares in 2011 with a production of 780,000 quintals. In response to the evident need to increase corn production in order to meet the domestic consumer demand, the Ministry of Agriculture promotes the massive planting of corn and sorghums within the country. Programs are currently underway to involve both the traditional producers and agroindustries that grow tomato and tobacco to introduce these in their crop rotation.