The United States is the leading producer of corn in the world, and as could be assumed, corn is number one in America’s crop production. In fact, corn production is approximately two times the amount of any other crop in America. While the U.S. leads in production, some areas of the country, predominantly the Midwest, have more fertile lands that are full of nutrients that support the growth of crops, like corn. The expansive area of fertile land is known as the Corn Belt, and it is responsible for producing more than one third of the nation’s corn. Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Indiana are the top five producing states in the U.S. They, among seven other states (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, and South Dakota), make up the Corn Belt of America.
Corn is not as simple as corn. There is a clear distinction between field corn and sweet corn. Both are grown in America, but field corn is more widely produced and accounts for approximately 90% of the nation’s corn growth. Therefore, when you see a corn field, it is likely field corn that is being grown. Visually, field corn that has matured has a distinctive dent in each kernel. Perhaps not as well known, field corn plants are quite tall, dark green in color, and are harvested when the plant has matured and the stalks begin to yellow. There are a number of uses for field corn, including exports, ethanol, and food ingredients and products. The United States is the largest exporter of corn in the world, and it is estimated that the U.S. will export 1.1 billion bushels of corn for the 2012-2013 growing season. Aside from exports, one bushel of corn is capable of producing 2.7 gallons of ethanol. About 40% of the field corn produced goes towards ethanol production. Eight bushels of corn has enough calories to feed a single person for a full year. What is a bushel, you may ask? Well, a bushel is a measurement of weight that is equal to approximately 56 pounds of corn.
While it may seem that field corn fully embodies the word “corn”, there is another type. Sweet corn accounts for less than 5% of the nation’s corn growth. However, sweet corn is what you eat directly… during the summer, at picnics, at fairs. Sweet corn is eaten on or off the cob, grilled or boiled. It has rounded kernels, unlike the dented kernels that field corn has. The plants, themselves, are shorter and more yellow-green than field corn plants and are harvested while the plant is immature and still green. It is bred for an increased sugar content that is evident in its “sweet” taste. Whether it is field corn or sweet corn that is being produced, the average American farmer produces enough corn to feed 155 people. Corn production is a significant component in American society, economics, geography, and culture.